Interview with India Study Abroad Participant: Chris

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Chris is a Master of Social Work student and will receive his degree in spring 2015. He also received his Bachelor of Social Work with honors at USF in December 2013. He is a current member of the NASW and was an active member of the Social Work Society during his undergraduate studies. A few students in the Social Work Society and him raised nearly two thousand dollars in two months to rebuild a home for a family who lost their home in the Haiti 2010 earthquake. He traveled with professor Rahill and one other student to personally deliver the funds to the family. They were also able to meet with other colleges and talk with various community organizers in Haiti. He is currently interning at the Jail Diversion Program (JDP) at the Pinellas County Public Defender’s office. After graduation, he plans on getting his LCSW and hopefully will be able to continue to work with JDP in his future career. Chris can be contacted at cdkoester@mail.usf.edu.

First of all, tell us about the Northeast Himalayas in India study abroad trip. What did the program do, and what did you study?

This trip was part of a 6-credit clinical social work course that allowed students to immerse in an indigenous culture and context. We spent the majority of time at a research institute called RIWATCH which stands for Research Institute of World’s Ancient Traditions Cultures and Heritage (designated as the Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development by the United Nations). It was located in the Northeastern most part of India called Arunachal Pradesh – a part of India that shares borders with Tibet, Myanmar and Bhutan. RIWATCH’s mission in Northeast India is to preserve the local endangered indigenous tribes’ culture, rituals, and heritage. We had enriching interactions with local school children; social workers; local politicians and activists; researchers; tea plantation workers; members of local women’s empowerment groups; government officials responsible for programs related to maternal and child health, education, HIV, and domestic violence; local administrators and military personnel, and; interacted with the local physicians in the district hospital. For example, one eye-opening exercise that Dr. Carrion led was to form pairs with one member from the indigenous group and one study abroad student and we exchanged notes about our cultures, life, challenges, health issues, social issues etc. and then both the members shared their notes with everyone. We visited the homes of local families belonging to the Idu Mishmi tribe, had traditional food at their homes, visited monasteries, participated in local festivals and rituals and learnt about their lifestyle, and also observed focus groups that Drs. Joshi and Carrion conducted with local women as part of their research study on maternal and child health practices and end of life issues in the local tribal communities. We were also able to visit a few temples, shrines, and religious ceremonies to experience a few of the many religious and spiritual places and people in India. It was interesting to observe the ways in which influences from the neighboring countries affect the practices of people in this region. Some practice Thai and others practice Tibetan stream of Buddhism; many are nature worshippers and some others follow Hinduism or Christianity.

As part of the program, we also participated in a service learning exercise in collaboration with the officials and staff of the government district hospital and cleaned the premises of the newly constructed maternal and child health wing of the hospital. In addition, we participated in a tree plantation drive at the local government secondary school in which we were joined by local government leaders and school teachers. Our service learning projects were also covered by the local media – for details please see: http://www.arunachaltimes.in/wordpress/2014/05/25/usf-students-take-part-in-cleanliness-drive/

Finally, our journey culminated with a visit to the breathtaking Taj Mahal and shops in local markets and stores.

Why would you recommend that students try a non-traditional location such as India?

This trip was one of the most eye opening experiences of my life! This trip was in no way a vacation but rather an intense learning experience that challenged students on many different levels. I understand those students who would like to travel to countries in Europe and have that experience but if you truly want to be immersed in a culture that is much different from the Western or American culture; this is a trip you will want to take. This trip will force students out of their comfort zones and challenge their world view of life perspectives. It is not a trip for everyone but for those who are up to the challenge and open to new experiences. I highly recommend they apply for this trip. It is an invaluable experience that may change you and you will never forget.

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Interview with Boren, Gilman, and Critical Language Scholarship Recipient: Hiram

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Hiram Rios is a graduating senior studying Economics and International Studies with a minor in Chinese Language. While at USF, he has participated in four study abroad programs, including “China: Learning in the Culture Tier I,” “China: History and Culture” with the Honors College, “Germany: Beyond the Classroom,” and the State Department’s “Critical Language Scholarship” program in Suzhou, China. Additionally, he has received four national scholarships to fund his studies including an $80,000 international affairs fellowship that includes a five-year contract in his dream career in the Foreign Service. Furthermore, he has a received a Boren National Security Scholarship and a Gilman International Scholarship.

What are the top reasons you decided to study Chinese?

Music was my first passport to China. I have played violin for over a decade now, and when I was 14 years old I was offered a spot performing in the ‘Salute to the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ orchestra in China. Prior to that experience I knew little about China, but after performing at and touring the Great Wall, Forbidden Palace, and Olympic Plaza in Beijing as well as the Bund in Shanghai, a Pandora’s Box of curiosity had opened. Therefore, my top reasons for studying abroad in China while at USF were the opportunity to re-live those cherished memories, to get a more in depth look at the history and philosophy I had studied, and most importantly, to master the Chinese language in pursuit of employment with the U.S. Foreign Service.

If you were to compare yourself now to who you were before studying abroad, how are you different?

It is undeniable that study abroad transforms a person. In my eyes, I have grown into a different person after each and every study abroad opportunity as I learn and integrate positive aspects of each culture I visit into my life. When I first came back from performing in the Olympic Orchestra in 2008, I felt myself consumed in a hunger for knowledge and a curiosity for adventure that I had never experienced before. That trip opened the floodgates to ‘freedom’ in the sense that fear never holds me back from exploring new places (domestically or outside of the U.S.). Now I am prone to taking weekend trips around Florida, or even to D.C. or New York. After returning to China in 2013 for two USF programs and an independent study, I returned with a renewed discipline and appreciation for balance. I began meditating as a way to control stress and found myself working at 110%, which even then felt little compared to my course load in China. From my trip to Germany and subsequent return to China, I gained an increased interest in international politics, and now I find myself reading more from Xinhua News, Der Spiegel, the China Morning Post, and the Shanghaiist than I read on Facebook. Every student will have a different experience abroad, but I personally developed myself cognitively and feel that I am more independent, mature, informed, curious, and confident than ever before.

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Interview with Japan Study Abroad Alum: Barbara

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Barbara is a Cell and Molecular Biology major who is hoping to someday become a Dermatologist and work with children who are suffering from skin diseases. She was one of the inaugural members of the ‘Japan: Beyond the Classroom’ trip (now called USF Japan Study Program) with Professor Mako Nozu and earned scholarships from the Honors College for study abroad. This was not Barbara’s first time traveling abroad as she had already traveled with an ambassador group to Australia during her 9th grade year of high school. She has always loved traveling and has a goal to visit as many countries as she possibly can in her lifetime but before that one of her main goals is to visit every state in the U.S and has already visited 1/5 of them. As a GloBull Ambassador, she is eager to take questions from students interested in studying in Japan (durdenb@mail.usf.edu)

What are the top reasons you decided to study abroad?

One of the main reasons I decided to study abroad was the fact that I was told that a program like the one I went on didn’t happen very often. It was kind of a ‘Once in a college career’ type of thing was the way I saw it. When this trip came along I just had that feeling inside that no matter what I was going on this trip and that’s what I did. That feeling was another of the reason’s I decided to study abroad. You know how people are supposed to get that feeling of their heart beating out of their chests when they fall in love with someone? Well that’s the feeling I get when I travel and I know that a certain trip is the one I want to go on. It’s happened now multiple times, first when I learned about the trip to Australia, next when my mother and I decided to take a trip to Alaska for my graduation, and again when I learned about the Japan trip. My heart was really the one that made me decide to go on the trip and it was such a great experience that I’m glad it did.

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Fully Funded Summer Internship Program in India

Cultural Vistas has opened the application for their Cultural Vistas Fellowship.

The Cultural Vistas Fellowship affords underrepresented U.S. university students the unique opportunity to gain professional experience in a summer internship in Argentina, Germany, or India.  The theme of the 2015 Cultural Vistas Fellowship is entrepreneurship and innovation.

Applicants for the Cultural Vistas Fellowship must meet the following requirements:
•       U.S. citizens enrolled full-time at a four-year accredited U.S. college or university
•       Rising junior or senior status; minimum GPA of 3.0
•       Ages 18-30
•       No formal prior work or study abroad experiences
•       Academic or practical experience (volunteer or work) that demonstrates an interest in, or commitment to, entrepreneurship and/or innovation

The application deadline is January 15, 2015.

NanoJapan: International Research Experience for Undergraduates

NanoJapan: International Research Experience for Undergraduates is a Rice University-administered study abroad program open to degree-seeking students in the U.S. It is generously supported by an NSF Partnerships for International Research & Education grant, allowing students to participate for an estimated cost of $985 for the entire program. January 23rd is the deadline to apply.