Academic, personal and professional growth - IHP will change your life! Past Review

By (Geography, Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/16/2015 to 12/06/2015 with

SIT Study Abroad: IHP - Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning and Politics (Fall 1)

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to ask better questions, think very critically, and seek better answers. I became more flexible, more resilient, and more open-minded. IHP taught me so much about four different urban environments but also showed me how little I know and made me excited to go out into the world, pursue my passions, and learn more.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I learned the most during this semester than any other 4 month block in my life. From about 8:30 to 5:30 five days a week, I was either in class or in the field. Field-based learning was incredible, as we usually spent several half days each week meeting with government officials, NGOs, or just exploring different neighborhoods and talking to people. Guest lectures were also really great resources for our classroom learning. The academic rigor is different than it is at Middlebury. IHP classes tend to have less reading and less work, but there is so much less time to complete everything. I would say that the most valuable educational experiences came from hands-on learning, while the classes were meant to provide theoretical frameworks and allow for class discussion.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The host country program admins really varied across the three countries and influenced the efficiency, productiveness and general vibe of the program. Some were definitely better than others.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

It's hard to get close with families when you are only staying with them for a month and are so busy, but most people in the group seemed to have positive home stay experiences. IHP does a good job of building relationships with invested families over the years.

* Food:

Breakfasts and dinners during the week were provided by our home stay families and we usually got stipends for lunch. The food in each city/homestay varied but there was always plenty of food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It's hard to be fully integrated when you only have one month in the city, but since we explored so many different areas of the city and lived with families, I felt quite integrated. However, since we took classes within the IHP program, it was hard to meet local students besides home stay siblings.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had several health problems along the way (in São Paulo and Cape Town) and program administrators were helpful in ensuring that I received immediate health care when necessary. The hospitals and doctors offices I went to were fine and I went with a translator when necessary. However, I felt that no one was really looking out for me to check up on my recover after I went to the doctor and got medicine.

* Safety:

Our group had several safety-related incidents in Cape Town and one or two in São Paulo (mostly theft). Although unfortunate, the incidents were mostly unavoidable and a consequence of living in a city. Even still, I think that the program administrators could have done a better job communicating issues, concerns, and plans for how to avoid being victims of crime.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I did not spend much of my own money except for vacation, which was 5 days in South Africa. During that period of time, we had to pay for our own accommodations, food, etc. Otherwise, the only money I spent was on food or gifts for the family (but most meals were provided by the program). The exchange rates in all three cities were very helpful!

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~$30


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Hotel
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The academic focus on comparative urban studies
  • Field-based learning including neighborhood days and site visits to different areas of each city
  • The group of students - I have never been in a class with such inspirational, motivated, and critical individuals who all intend to change the world in some way
* What could be improved?
  • Better integrating classroom work with field-based learning
  • Having more time to synthesize information and reflect on what students have learned and experienced
  • Having the opportunity to meet more local students
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? IHP is the most intense and rewarding study abroad program out there. It can be really hard emotionally and every student has times when he or she is ready to go home. This is not a program for someone looking to live in one city, hang out with friends all the time, and party a lot. Instead, someone who signs up for IHP Cities should be interested in social justice issues, prepared for highly structured, busy days, invested in learning about the world and meeting all types of people, extremely flexible, and ready for a challenge. This program might not be the most "fun" in the typical sense of the word, but it will definitely change your entire worldview and self-perception. IHP faculty and staff have so many connections and resources across the world, so you cannot emulate this program and learn as much on your own. IHP is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that anyone interested should definitely check out.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Culture and Society of World Cities

Course Department: Sociology/Anthropology
Instructor: Danielle Hedegard
Instruction Language: English
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Contemporary Urban Issues

Course Department: Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Danielle Hedegard/Rick Miller
Instruction Language: English
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Urban Planning and Sustainable Environments

Course Department: Urban Planning
Instructor: varied by country
Instruction Language: English
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Urban Politics and Development

Course Department: Urban Studies
Instructor: Rick Miller
Instruction Language: English
Credit Transfer Issues: