The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: A valuable idea

April 23rd, 2012

Reflections from First-Generation Students

Dear Prospective Student,

My name is Danielle Dee and I am a senior in the University of Iowa undergraduate social work program. Being a first generation student, my family was new to the whole college experience and all the opportunities I had available to me, including studying abroad. At first, my parents did not understand the benefits of going abroad or why I even wanted to. My mom was mostly worried about me going to a different country, especially a third world country, with nobody she knew and no cell phone to contact me. Both my parents could not relate so I spent a lot of time convincing them to take studying abroad seriously and that studying abroad was a valuable idea. After much discussion, they began to understand how this is a once in a lifetime opportunity I needed to take advantage of while I still can as a student. Mostly, they were worried about me flying overseas and the costs of everything. Little did we know, there are many scholarships to apply for that majorly helped me with my tuition and extra expenses. Thanks to the study abroad program, I received the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship that helped me with these costs and believe me, applying for these scholarships is worth it!

I had the opportunity to participate in the three-week India Winterim study abroad program over winter break. I never would have thought about going until I took a weeklong spring break immersion trip to Portland in the spring of 2011 to work with the homeless population. I recognized there was so much more out there then what we have here in Iowa and wanted to explore more of the world. I was informed that one of the social work professors was going to be teaching a class in India, which I decided to look into. I had never been out of the United States before so I was a little apprehensive about flying and adjusting to another country especially the time difference. As I mentioned before, my mom was not a fan of the idea of me going out of the country, but she understood that it would be a beneficial experience pertaining to my future career. I have always thought learning about different cultures and experiencing them first hand is better than trying to learn about them in a classroom. What better way than to do this than going abroad to India?

I stayed in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. The class I took focused on the economic and health care innovations that help women and children escape poverty in India. Also, my group consisted of not only social work students, but also many students with different majors and backgrounds that contributed to the program. My group was awesome and I have definitely made some life long friends after undergoing this experience!

For my project, I focused on the education of children in the household and how the families send their kids to school with the little income the family makes. While researching, I discovered many fascinating facts through interviews and conversations with individual and groups women in rural villages who made a living in India making their own products and selling them. I gained a whole new appreciation for what I have and what I am able to afford after visiting a third world country. I also learned many valuable life lessons that I will never forget. In our free time, usually in the afternoon after our long days of class activities and research, we got to go shopping and tour the city! We also got to visit a few palaces, several temples and cultural festivals, and spend a weekend in the mountains, which was an extremely remarkable experience!

Going to India was such a wonderful cultural experience and really gave me a whole new perspective on life. Studying abroad was literally one of the best opportunities I have taken advantage of since becoming an undergraduate at the University of Iowa in 2008. The lifelong friends I made and the memories will never be forgotten!

Danielle Dee