Dear Prospective Study Abroad Students,
My name is Jenny and I am an undergraduate student currently in the athletic training program. I am a first generation student from the suburbs of Chicago. I am half Polish and half Guatemalan and, as you can imagine, I was brought up in a household full of different culture. From a young age I was very interested in indulging in different cultures so I knew studying abroad was something I wanted to do when I came to the University of Iowa.
This winter break I was lucky enough to travel to Pondicherry, India where I spent 3 amazing weeks learning all about the beautiful culture. One fear I had was not being able to adjust. I had just flown halfway across the world and I was really worried that I was going to feel out of place and would want to come back home. I was pleasantly surprised by all the love and warmth I received from the moment we landed in India. The people were so kind and friendly and welcomed all of us with such joy.
What impacted me the most was that these people we encountered had so little to give; yet they would give it all up just to make us happy. I was so touched by the generosity I experienced and it really made me appreciate the things I had back home and reminded me not to take anything for granted. I worked with an organization called SAMUGAM during my time in Pondicherry. SAMUGAM strives to help children from the gypsy village have a better life. Each day I would walk into the children’s home and be greeted with so many hugs and contagious smiles from the kids. I truly cannot express how thankful I am to have met those kids. They taught me that happiness can be found anywhere and it is not measured by the amount of materialistic things you own, which is often times the mentality we have here in the US.
Many times in my life I have felt out of place or struggled with my identity because I was half Polish and half Guatemalan. It took me a while to feel comfortable in my own skin. I can honestly say that study abroad has helped me with that. By showing me the beauty in another culture it makes me proud to share mine with other people. Diversity is a beautiful thing and it needs to be valued. So please, take the next step and apply to a study abroad program. You won’t regret it.
Best of Luck,