After being a part of this program, it has really reaffirmed my passion in wanting to become apart of the healthcare system. I want to be a reconstructive surgeon that donates their time to under privileged communities that cannot afford the help on their own. While being able to experience the surgeries, births of babies, and the experience of working in an under privileged community - I have reassured myself that I have chosen the best career path for myself.
This program not only solidified my passion for medicine but also opened my eyes to a different culture and their ways of life, plus I can speak a little Spanish now. I hope I am able to study abroad again soon.
I had the honor of shadowing a physician that allowed me to be very hands on in assessing patients. Needless to say it was awesome! In her room there was a nurse who took vitals and asked simple questions to figure out the reason for the visit much like in the U.S. It was very rewarding to see her interact, diagnose, inform and resolve the issue at hand.
Every morning, we observed patient visits, surgeries, and deliveries, an opportunity I would have never been able to receive in the U.S., where such shadowing opportunities are unheard of for undergraduate students. Seeing actual patients in a clinical setting truly enhanced my passion for people of all backgrounds and my desire to treat them as a physician.
As the days went by, I realized how much Mexicans value family. I have never experienced such closeness, not within my family or anyone else I know for that matter. They endeavor to make time for each other and they show genuine care.
I was able to call the company, arrange for a date to go riding, a date to drop off the money to pay for the excursion, and work out details about what would occur that day. The work I did planning the trip helped both my organizational skills, planning skills, and leadership skills (as there were seven other people in the group I had to manage). On top of this, I was doing all my communication in Spanish.
There are so many more stories and things I experienced that I would like to share, but that's the part of study abroad that is so special. The fact remains that the individual makes the experience for him or herself and can get out of it what they put in. Each individual has their own unique experiences and can truly understand the privilege of learning about other cultures.
Since many in this region are poverty-stricken, these resources are so important. Visiting the school and learning that the hot lunch program that has been enforced by DIF Municipal may provide the only meal that these children eat throughout the day was heartbreaking but it really opened my eyes to how privileged, overall, we are in the United States and the efforts that we need to make to support those who are not so fortunate both in our own country as well as others.
My program to Merida, Mexico was one to remember. I got the pleasure to work with disabled kids that were left by their families because they didn't want them and let me tell you it was a shaky experience. We got to hear some of their stories and it was heartbreaking. They don't get visitors at all for the most part so I was glad to be there for them even if it was just for a week and have a big party at the end for them.
To this day I still cannot believe that I completed a 5K journey through a Mexican Rainforest. I also made friends for life, affirmed my desire to be a social worker, and ate foods that I never would have imagined in a million years (cactus).
The challenges that communicating across language barriers presented were comical and enlightening. At one point the light bulb in our bathroom had burnt out and we called the front desk to ask for a new bulb, though we had no idea how to say "light bulb" in Spanish.
My team and I helped paint their school and the children loved helping giving us that much more time to bond with a lot of them. Being at the orphanage was my favorite part of my days in Mexico it surprised me at how much of an impact the kids had on me.
In Oaxaca I was volunteering in a home for abandon children. The home was run by group of Nuns whose mission was to help children in need of a home.
Therefore, I connected with these children and their low-income status. Knowing what these children have experienced, whenever we would communicate I would give them advice from a person who had been through the same unfortunate experience. I can proudly say that not only did they learn from me but I learned a lot from them as well.
I was able to get by very well since my Spanish is fluent. I had no trouble at all communicating with them, I actually got to help around by translating and helping others understand or even teaching them a couple phrases that could get them by.
In Mexico education is only available if paid for and these children with disabilities came every day with a smile on their beautiful faces to learn and learn motor skills to be able to fit into the society they live in.
I am from Guatemala and having the opportunity to go to Mexico for the first time and help those with cancer was what I consider a blessing.
During this time, music was playing as we shopped around. Clothes felt different and I was able to see some of the residents make these clothes as they were selling them. Times like this made me appreciate all the time and effort they put into each garment.
At my agency every morning we played with the kids and helped with their homework. When the kids went to school my peers and I worked at the agency. We fixed the basketball court and painted the classroom and removed the pile of sand they had on the basketball court.
I stopped caring about the looks of the place and began to interact with these wonderful elderly people. I noticed that it wasn’t the place that really mattered but the treatment these elderly people received and how happy they were just being there.
The children who we interacted with were children who were at risk of working from an early age in the street. This experience enhanced my academic pursuits because I wanted to experience first hand a different culture from mine. This helped me see from a different lens the power of those who are privileged and those who are in a disadvantage.
For the rest of the week we went to the orphanage and interacted with the kids, which was really fabulous. In one week I realized so many things that I would have never realized without this study abroad.
We repainted the babies cribs, cooked and served them lunch on our last day, and my personal favorite, we repainted their basketball court and painted a Spartan head on their wall with our handprints and names. I remember when I showed Sophia where my handprint and name was. I tried to put her at ease and let her know that I would be with her forever in spirit. She instantly smiled and hugged me even tighter this time.
On day four I also went to Centro Medico de las Americas Hospital and got to be a part of four open body surgeries.
I feel so blessed and thankful for being place with the children with disabilities. I have learned from those children things that a professor can’t teach me. I have felt things that I can’t read in a book. I have seen things that I wouldn’t have otherwise here in Michigan. This study abroad reminded me of why I am here in college and what I hope to accomplish.
The children were so loving and eager to learn. Two of my favorite children were Mayia and Alejandro. They taught me Spanish words while I taught them the English for it through pointing at different objects.
Being there in Campeche, learning from those children, revealed to me the power of art, love, culture and the beauty that results when they intersect. Despite the language barrier, despite not being able to communicate fluently with those young men, despite the differences in our culture and lifestyle, I was still able to make a significant impact on their lives.
Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be an obstetrician. In Mexico, my dream became more of a reality. I got so much clinical experience and exposure to live births and even cesarean sections. The surgeons in the obstetrics department permitted me to observe operations up close and personal.
I met great people and made long lasting friendships. I am thankful for the help and support from being awarded the Study Abroad Scholarship.
I had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain for a whole semester while in my undergraduate program. With only having roughly 10 days to spend in Mexico, I thought I was not going to be able to get a sufficient enough experience. Fortunately I was very wrong about this in regards to this trip.
I was always both intrigued and frightened by the prospect of participating in a study abroad program in a country that spoke a language that I was not fluent. What I found once I actually arrived in Mexico is that the people there were very nice and understanding of our less than proficient language skills.
My task from Sol y Luna was to rebuild and paint a wall that was falling apart. It took a lot of hard work and leadership to get it done with only five days to do so. Though there was a lot of working, my team and I were able to bond and got to know each other on a personal level.
Once we had arrived to Puebla, our highly anticipated journey had officially begun and there was absolutely no way anyone could stop it. My group and I returned to the same all-boys orphanages I had worked with the year prior, and went right to work. We each spent several days repainting two of the three facilities where the children were housed. What at first seemed to be an impossible task, turned into an inspirational mission that I think each of us will hold in our hearts
I was also able to observe and compare this program in Mexico with the school lunch program of Michigan. I made the connection that their was far less negative stigma regarding participation in the free breakfast program of Mexico than there is in the Michigan free and reduced lunch program.
Academically I try to seize opportunities that put me outside of my comfort zone and teach me outside of the classroom. By meeting professionals and social work colleagues in Mexico and discussing social policy concerns and programs, I was pushed to question how and why we view certain issues differently in the United States.
I was assigned along with seven other students to visit "Maria Palmira Alberge," which is an orphanage for children ranging from new born to 18 years of age. When we first got there most of the kids were shy but the director of the orphanage told us to play water fight with the kids and that’s when they started warming up to us.
This experience gave me so much insight in to myself, the condition of the social work profession and the clients we serve. I gained even more compassion for others and came to the realization that in the United States we have a lot of resources in our programs that we take for granted. I also realized that clients view social workers in Mexico differently than the clients in the United States do.
That amazing week that I was able to spend there taught me several things. It taught me that you don't have to be blood-related to hold the family title. It taught me that those that don't seem to have hope still manage to have it. That every little action one does for those in need can be meaningful and have a huge impact on the ones doing the work and receiving the work.
Apart from the life impacting experiences we witnessed, simply being in the hospital and clinic environments at stage of my educational career was incredible. I was able to witness live surgery as well as a couple of live births as well as have some hands on patient exposure in the clinics.
The program’s site visits and fieldwork presented a forum to develop interdisciplinary leadership skills and relationships with diverse professionals.
As a result of going on this program, I was able to improve my Spanish-speaking skills; I learned to try new things; and to appreciate the life that I am privileged to have been born into.
My favorite part of this experience was when, our group walked to Pastoral del Amor together, the kids would wait for us so that they could hug us.
I will never forget my study abroad experience to Merida, Yucatan during Spring Break 2013. It was an amazing experience that challenged me every day, because it was so heartbreaking when a 5 year old child would come up to me begging me to buy a piece of gum.
From the day that I got accepted up until the day that I had actually left, I already knew how this study abroad experience would go. I’d do some good things, take a few pictures, and chill. I was totally and absolutely wrong.
As we engaged in the community service, I learned that it didn’t matter what skin color we were or what god we believed in, but that we all wanted to make a positive change in the world.
Taking this study abroad to Mexico during spring break has really impacted me positively and I know it has helped me grow profoundly.
The program’s description initially seemed simple enough: volunteer at an orphanage for nine days and come home; however, I quickly found that there would be an inconceivable personal adventure waiting for me when I arrived.
When we arrived to Mexico everything seemed different: the smell, the horizons. I knew I was no longer in America. The people in Mexico were very welcoming and friendly.
Had I not went to Mexico with the program I would never have experienced the DIF agencies first hand. We met the program leaders, the policy writers and the program directors.
I worked in an orphanage throughout most my time in Puebla and it was simply amazing. I just fell in love with all the children at the orphanage the moment I saw them and started to communicate with them.
Kiara in Mexico: This course revealed my capabilities and the importance of experience. I have more confidence in becoming a physician.
I had the honor to meet so many beautiful children who were living at that orphanage. I cleaned, painted, and even got to play with the children there.
A community can be small, like a residence hall community. It can be larger, like the student community at MSU. It can be worldwide, like all Spartans everywhere.
It was amazing to be a part of something so significant to the host country we were visiting.
Throughout the week, I came to learn what true happiness was. These children did not have expensive toys or nice clothes. They had each other, and they were happy.
One of the biggest challenges I faced was the language barrier. During the program, I had a hard time communicating with the locals because, despite my interest in Spanish culture, I did not speak Spanish.
One thing that I was afraid of when I first traveled was the language. My major is now Spanish, but at that time I had only a limited ability to speak Spanish.
This was an unforgettable experience that I will be able to carry with me as I work with clients of all different backgrounds, and was another step for me toward becoming a culturally competent social worker.
She painted the same pink heart and when I asked her to pose for a picture with me showing our hearts she pointed at me and then back at herself and said the word “sisters” in English.
Even though I’m happy that I had an opportunity to show Moi a good time, I wish there was something more that I can do for him.
Trying to function in a non- English speaking area is very difficult. I took Spanish over four years ago, and in many situations I found myself using what little I could remember to communicate with the patients at the hospital. I now want to become fluent in Spanish as opposed to before I had no interest in trying to learn another language.
The depth and variety of social agencies we got to visit and learn about was astounding, and truly a unique experience that I never could have experienced without going abroad.
After two years of college, it has been the best learning experience and highlight of my college career.
What I liked about my experience in Merida was that I didn’t want to leave. I felt at home, because the people were welcoming.
Bonding with these kids was an experience I will never forget. Since I do not speak very much Spanish I found several ways to interact with them, such as playing tag, braiding their hair and sharing dance moves.
I was in a cultural landmark of Mexico and encountering all of it was something that I will never find in the United States as well as an experience I will never forget.
The students were very loving and open with us. We danced together, drew pictures, played games and just talked to one another.
My interactions with this amazing family have inspired me to improve my Spanish, so at the least, I can keep in touch with them through e-mail.