student reflections

Since returning home from my study abroad experience in Edinburgh, Scotland people have frequently asked me the same few surface level questions. What was it like? Did I have a good time? Am I glad to be home? It was good, I had a blast, and yes it’s nice to be back in the US. But people rarely ask me about the difficulties of studying abroad, and even more seldom ask how the experience changed me.

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Traveling to Pondicherry with the 2016 India Winterm Program was my first trip abroad and the experiences I had over the three weeks I was there were life changing. I enrolled in the course Serving Children with Disabilities, Empowering Local Women, Assisting Older Adults (SEA). My enrollment in this course provided me with the opportunity to volunteer with nonprofit organizations in the area, attend lectures with guest speakers, and visit ancient temples and other cultural sites. I volunteered at SARVAM, an after school program created by the Sri Aurobindo Society that works to advance the educational attainment of children in rural areas.

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I never have traveled outside of the Continental US and Mexico. Being a first-generation student from a Mexican background, every opportunity I have had to go on a trip was usually to visit my family in Mexico. Although, I have always wanted to go somewhere completely different from anything I have experienced before. I decided to, quite abruptly, apply to the London Winterim Program. I felt that a college experience would just not be complete unless one studies abroad while they have the opportunity to and I also really wanted to experience being in another continent.

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If you ask me, “How was Morocco?” or any similar iteration of the question, my scripted response will be something along the lines of, “It was great! I learned a lot, and I loved being there, but I’m glad to be home.” This answer, or whichever variation of it bores me the least, satisfies ninety-eight percent of the frustrating, albeit well-meaning, questioners.

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My sexual identity has never been an easy subject with me. I like to say it is similar to having your worst fear tattooed on your forehead. So, I was branded with “GAY” on my forehead. There were nights where I hated every part of myself because of this one little section of my being, but there were also nights that I felt amazing because of my differences. Going to a nation that the majority of popular opinion is opposed to gay marriage was daunting and it made me think about more than just my sexual identity.

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Hello University of Iowa students thinking about studying abroad! Last year, around this time, I was looking into studying abroad just like you! This experience has changed my life. I saw my textbooks come to life, met amazing people, and, above all, found myself.

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My name is Nadia Doubiany, and I am a senior at the University of Iowa studying International Studies in Human Rights, Fundraising and Philanthropy Communications, and Spanish. If you are considering study abroad in Cuba, do it! In all of my travels abroad, my experience in Cuba has been by far the most life changing.

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Jeno Singson graduated from the University of Iowa this spring with a degree in marketing. He was a recipient of the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship for Study Abroad, which applied toward a yearlong program at Bond University in Gold Coast, Australia. Identifying as not only Asian but also a member of the LGBT community, Jeno made it his personal goal to be a role model for other Asian LGBT minorities as well as people of color. The following is a reflection by Jeno on his time abroad.

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In an increasingly global society, biracial marriages are, for the most part, accepted. Because of the diversity within the United States, most Americans are accustomed to not only seeing, but interacting with biracial individuals. In my case, I traveled to a country where there are strict laws that hinder immigration and an overarching notion that the gene pool is pure and must not be diluted.

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UI Study Abroad Diversity Ambassador Stephanie Cuddalore Priya is an accounting student at the Tippie College of Business, and a CIMBA spring 2015 alumna. She studied in the small Italian town, Paderno Del Grappa for 12 weeks, traveling to 10 different countries and experiencing self-discovery, adventure, and culture. In this letter to prospective students, she reflects on overcoming being a 'homebody' and how her multicultural background comes in handy while traveling.

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