The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on Diversity Abroad: Trivandrum, Kerala, India

March 19th, 2020
Yajaira Bolanos India

My name is Yajaira Bolanos I am a first-generation Latina student at the University of Iowa majoring in health and human physiology on the health promotion track. I had the opportunity to participate in the India Winterim program in Trivandrum, Kerala, India. In my course we learned many things in India about their healthcare system, opposing forces of national policy change in opioids, palliative care in pediatrics, accessibility for handicaps, and culture. We were welcomed in the homes of families and integrated with the culture. The relationships and bonds that I formed were amazing. Everything was so unexpected. I am glad I got to spend my time with remarkable and incredible people.

One of my goals when I arrived at the University of Iowa was to study abroad. I just didn’t know when, where, or how I was going to do it. My parents were very supportive and although they could not help me financially, that did not stop me from finding ways to fund this opportunity. I was also nervous to travel so far on my own but that was the beauty of this opportunity. To learn more about another country and also to learn more about myself in this world and grow in my independence. There were many obstacles during the process and I was always skeptical about being able to have financial resources. However, since my time here I have learned that there are many resources and many people who genuinely want to help and give opportunities to students. 

Yajaira Bolanos India

During my time abroad I felt so much happiness and fulfillment in my heart. Although I had  some challenges, I learned to adjust to the different types of circumstances that were presented to me. It was a learning moment that I have embraced and the best part of learning is that it never stops. I had an amazing time in India and everything that I was exposed to is coming with me in my life journey. I wish I could explain the beautiful experience through my eyes but I cannot, only with words. Before leaving the United States, I prepared myself mentally and emotionally. I wanted this trip to be meaningful and that is exactly what it was. There were many differences and interactions that I expected and did not expect on this trip. I learned about the country’s cultural diversity and their unique differences. There was so much to digest as I spent my time in a completely different environment that I am not accustomed to and I cannot explain the beautiful culture that I was thankful to be part of in my three weeks in India. It is hard to believe that in just over two weeks I have had so much personal growth and joy. I feel better stepping outside my comfort zone. 

If you every get the chance to study abroad, take advantage of that opportunity! My culture awareness has definitely grown on me. This experience has challenged me to realign my priorities and the values that I have in life. Every interaction will be with me forever and that is something that no one can take away from me. I feel utterly happy for life and hopeful for new adventures. When I look back, I think that what most impacted me was the smiles on everyone’s face, the positivity on life regardless of the adversity one is facing. I have admiration for this new country I visited. I love everything about India, especially the people. They have grown on me and it was hard to say goodbye. I am overflowed with so much culture and color. 

Best Wishes, 
Yajaira Bolanos

Please note that the opinions and views expressed by diversity ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.