The University of Iowa

Ashley Morrow reflects on four study abroad experiences

April 29th, 2020
Ashley Morrow

Ashley Morrow

Ashley Morrow has always expressed an interest in traveling abroad since she began her college career at the University of Iowa in 2016. Now, as Morrow approaches her final weeks leading up to graduation, she sits back and reflects on the four study abroad experiences that defined her college experience.

“Each program was its own unique experience. I learned something new with each country, but they’ve all given me a broader perspective of the world,” said Morrow.

Majoring in global health studies and Spanish, Morrow always knew studying abroad was crucial for gaining real-world experience. In the summer of 2018, Morrow participated in a public health research internship in Romania. The program was titled The Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program (MHIRT) and was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and College of Public Health at the University of Iowa. “I was really interested in how public health functions in different spaces,” said Morrow.

Morrow worked on a multi-international project with Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Romanian professors taught a course to visiting Tunisian academia about research techniques that would be taken back to their home country and used within their own infrastructures. Throughout her internship, Morrow received guidance from an on-site mentor who helped her adapt to the Romanian education system.

Immediately following her summer in Romania, Morrow flew to San Sebastian, Spain, for the Fall 2018 semester. During this traditional study abroad experience, Morrow completed coursework related to her Spanish major. This was also the first time Morrow struggled with homesickness. Morrow remembers moments of loneliness followed by moments of absolute gratitude, a reminder that studying abroad is a huge commitment.

“I love being abroad. I enjoy being immersed into different cultures, meeting new people, and it helps you grow a lot. I think being abroad does change you. I function a lot differently than I did before going abroad,” said Morrow.

Back-to-back, Morrow spent her third study abroad experience in Costa Rica during the Spring 2019 semester. Again, this was a traditional study abroad experience where she focused on both her global studies and Spanish major credits. When asked how she chose her abroad destinations, Morrow emphasized the importance of selecting locations based on logistics. For her, she wanted to choose places that fulfilled course credits while still considering which cultures inspired her, which destinations she wanted to learn more about, and what places she had yet to see.

“Studying abroad has allowed me to increase my understanding of different cultures and develop intercultural skills. These programs also helped me focus my degree which is helpful as I am considering my graduate school options,” Morrow said.

For her final study abroad experience, Morrow participated in a language and culture fellowship in Indonesia during the summer of 2019. The program, funded through the United States Indonesia Society (USINDO), was an NGO that fostered relationships between U.S. and Indonesian citizens. Morrow lived with a host family, attending classes where she was taught Indonesian. “Indonesia is so ethnically, culturally, religiously diverse, which invited so many unique experiences for me to enjoy,” said Morrow.

Many have approached Morrow asking how she could afford four semesters worth of travel. To that, Morrow says utilizing resources, asking questions, and doing research. Naturally, when applying for grants and scholarships there is a wave of anxiety because applications can be time consuming with unpredictable results. But with persistence, applicants typically reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

“There’s importance, but also hesitation with funding. Always apply. I’m so thankful for the Global Health Studies department and International Programs for funding opportunities because without them I may not have been able to study abroad,” Morrow said.

Originally, before the Coronavirus epidemic cancelled all international summer programs, Morrow planned one last trip to India. Fortunately, the internship will continue as planned but this time virtually. With scholarships from the Global Health Studies department at the University of Iowa and the Ananthamurthy Fund for Karnataka and Southern Asian Studies, Morrow will be completing a research internship headquartered in Mysore, India. Morrow plans to work on different research projects with a focus on women’s, adolescents’, and children’s health. Morrow chose this opportunity in hopes of learning more about advocacy for women and children around the world.

Although her internship in India was cancelled, Morrow expressed deep gratitude for the opportunities she was previously granted. Studying abroad has changed Morrow’s life, pushing her out of her comfort zone and immersing her into international bliss.

“I really see myself as an advocate for others, supporting their well-being as an individual and aspiring academic, but also as a mentor who has been abroad before,” Morrow said.