Urban Blow Out Past Review

By (Urban Studies, Hamline University) for

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I went into the program being most interested about one thing (urban planning) and left knowing that I have to do something completely different (community organizing and youth work). This experience helped me to understand what it was about Urban Studies that truly interested me--and it was the people side of the coin, not the planning (though people should be thought of when planning for cities).

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I really loved learning on IHP cities program. There were many things that made it enjoyable. Designed as with the "experiential learning process" in mind, much of our in-class time was spent learning and speaking with individuals who were experts and who actually worked in the subjects (such as housing, urban planning, slum upgrading, etc.) in the cities we were in. We also did a lot of student-lead teaching. One example is Neighborhood day. We would break into small groups and each go to one neighborhood in the city, spending all day there really trying to learn as much about it as possible (often meeting with a neighborhood representative of some kind). The next day each group would give their presentations on their neighborhoods. The positive side to this is that each city is so big, and it is almost impossible to go to each little section and truly learn about it--there is just not enough time. So this provided us a chance to learn from each other and really learn how to get the most from our neighborhood visits. Aside from talking to experts there were three traveling faculty that came with us. The faculty were really amazing people that were professionals in their fields (not necessarily professors). The workload wasn't too taxing, though you really had to be good about managing your time. It was interesting hand-writing papers (computer access can be very limited) though it was a nice change of pace. The papers are shorter than they maybe would be for a similar class at a University, but you spend a lot of time really trying to figure out what it is you want to say exactly. A big difference between this program and any other program is that you maybe lack the in-depth experience of staying in one place, but you get wide breadth of study that I don't think you could get through any other kind of program.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

--Brazil: Glenda is probably the most amazing woman I have ever met. She not only put together a great program, but she did most of the translating and was more than eager to help us when we started our independent projects. We had a hard time adjusting and sitting in a classroom for eight hours a day was a major challenge, especially when most lectures were twice as long as they would normally be (because it was being translated) --Cape Town: Sally helped to whip us into shape at a time where we (as a group) started to become a bit dysfunctional. She also had an amazing program with some of the coolest people and most interesting site visits. --Vietnam: Hoi Anh also put together a rad program. We had the most independent learning time in Hanoi--which was greatly appreciated.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

You were always placed with at least one other IHP student in a host family. This was nice because you had at least one person to talk to and communicate with. This was also good in getting to better know the people on the trip. I absolutely loved each and every one of my home stay families. I was lucky to get families that were very open and warm and big hearted that really tried to make me feel as comfortable and at home as possible. Each place was also different in terms of closeness to school/nightlife/etc. Sometimes you were just a couple of blocks from where the class was being held. Other times it was an hour or more walk/bicycle/bus ride. But each experience was worthwhile. There were things that I wouldn't have learned about the city had I not lived 90 minute bus ride away.

* Food:

Each homestay I was in had a problem of over-feeding me. For example, my Brazil mom thought I was too skinny and would cook extra portions for me to eat (and then would be offended if I did not eat it all). It was nice to have home-cooked meals by each family in each city and homestay because it provided a time for us to get to know each other.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

--Danced in Carnival --1000 year anniversary of Hanoi --World Cup: Cape Town These are just some of the bigger events, though there was so much that happened. Dancing in Carnival as part of a Samba school was probably one of the coolest things I will ever get to do in my life.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

There were times on the program that I felt more safe than others. It is all about being aware of your surroundings and knowing when you need to change your behavior or direction. There were times when I had people come up and tell me "Hey, what do you think you are doing here? This isn't for people like you". Also, there was an instance where some guy pulled a knife on me. But I don't think that the program could have done anything else to make things more safe. It has a lot to do with each place and what is happening there at that moment.

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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

There was a foreign language component because in my homestays (for instance) not everyone (or sometimes anyone) could speak english. It would have been beneficial for me to have taken some Portugese and Vietnamese languages courses, rather than learning the language a little bit in our first couple of weeks there. It was not impossible to communicate, but it can be difficult and frustrating not being able to talk to anyone but those in your group.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Other

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You would be stupid to not consider a program like this one.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Current Urban Issues

Course Department:
Instructor: co-taught by all faculty
Instruction Language: english
Comments: What made this class so interesting was that it really hit on current urban issues of each city. It provided a lens through which to compare and contrast the cities we visited. We also got to do a semester-long project on a topic of our choice: so you were able to constantly be researching and thinking about something that interested YOU
Credit Transfer Issues: