Vietnam, Morocco, and Bolivia. Wish I could do it all again! Past Review

By (Economics., Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/22/2014 to 12/06/2014 with

SIT Study Abroad: IHP - Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water and Energy

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to independently navigate a city in a language I do not know. I improved communication skills, I am less hesitant to reach out to people I would like to learn from or meet and I am more extraverted. I learned how to connect with people more easily/ readily, how to find commonalities and similar values. I learned how to be a good friend and team player. I learned from the perspectives of my host families. I learned how to be flexible and prepared for fun or work in any moment. I learned how to use a turkish toilet without being unsanitary! I learned from different eating and food cultures that are much different from my own and reflect different values. I learned how different forms of government work (socialist, monarchy). I learned how people organize and protest for change and human rights around the world. I experienced what it is like to learn without being stressed! I learned that mentors can be found in all people and how to make those relationships rich for both the mentor and the mentee. AND I learned so much from our class work-- economic development, capitalism, free trade, modernization theory, good governance, etc.

Review Photos

SIT Study Abroad: International Honors Program / IHP, Climate Change - The Politics of Food, Water, & Energy Photo SIT Study Abroad: International Honors Program / IHP, Climate Change - The Politics of Food, Water, & Energy Photo SIT Study Abroad: International Honors Program / IHP, Climate Change - The Politics of Food, Water, & Energy Photo SIT Study Abroad: International Honors Program / IHP, Climate Change - The Politics of Food, Water, & Energy Photo SIT Study Abroad: International Honors Program / IHP, Climate Change - The Politics of Food, Water, & Energy Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Great curriculum that provided critical analysis of development issues and environmental policy. Resources were limited and internet not easily accessible, which made it harder to do research than at our home institutions. This obstacle was frustrating at times, but 100% worth it and I learned so much and am so grateful for the lessons and perspectives I gained through the course material. Course material sometimes connected directly with site visits and other out-of-the-classroom experiences, though not always. When it did not seem connected it was important to dig deeper and find the connections!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

There was only 1 administrator and 1 professor with all 22 students, which put both of them in a difficult position. Country coordinators in each of the countries we lived in were crucial and very helpful. It was not always clear to me exactly what the plan was for some days, but if you are flexible and learn to roll with it, it is not a problem. You are always in good hands! Our fellow, the only administrator with us throughout the program, was incredibly helpful when I was sick, was working on my own travel plans, or had other questions.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

For all the time we spent in hostels or hotels and not with a homestay family, we stayed in very nice places. All of our hotels were very comfortable, had access to clean water, hot showers, food, etc. I felt very safe everywhere we stayed. My homestay families were incredible. Most homes in Vietnam do not have air conditioning. Most homes in Morocco have sleeping space in common areas on couches. There are certain adjustments necessary to make in each place, but I always felt at home and welcomed, safe, and well taken care of.

* Food:

The stipend for food is incredible. I spent less money than I normally would at my home institution on food and was never hungry. The food in Vietnam provided the best balance in diet. The food in Morocco and Bolivia is very sugary and has a lot of meat. I am not vegetarian, but I think in many cases vegetarians actually were given better food despite the rarity of vegetarianism in Morocco and Bolivia. I didn't eat many vegetables. BUT this is all part of the experience of living in these countries, and is by no fault of the program. I am grateful for all the meals I had, people were always so generous with food and I ate tremendous meals constantly with lots of different plates. You have to be willing to eat whatever is served you, as you rarely have the opportunity to choose or to cook for yourself. I was never hungry from being uncomfortable eating the food given me. I don't like fish, but fish is very popular in Vietnam. This was rarely a problem though. Home stay families are usually willing to work with students and accommodate their preferences.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The homestays were crucial for integration. Because we spend so much time in our own group, and because we only have four-five weeks in each country, it is harder to meet many local students and build relationships with people in the community. How well you are integrated is very much in your own hands and what you chose to do in your free time and how much time you spend with your family. Because I could speak spanish with my host family in Bolivia, they taught and showed me so much about Bolivian and Cochabamban culture. I could not speak Arabic or French with my host family in Morocco, so I was not able to learn as much from them, though there were still great cultural and life lessons to be had there! Also, living in the medina in Morocco and in smaller cities (Can Tho, Vietnam; Cochabamba, Bolivia), as opposed to spending all our time in larger cities, enabled me to get a much better grasp of the culture.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

When I was sick I was taken to a great private clinic in Bolivia. It was nearby, it was clean, I received loads of attention, and it was amazingly inexpensive. My health needs were immediately given attention and the country coordinators paid for it all and I paid them back when I had the money. People were sick throughout the program from problems adjusting to the food, and the program was understanding of this. We all talked about our health issues openly and there was lots of support to help us get back on our feet!

* Safety:

Before the program I expected to get into many hairy situations, but am happy to say I did not have any! There are new dangers to be aware of in each location, but if you are smart, aware, and don't look lost, you will be safe. I did not go many places by myself, more out of convenience than out of safety concern, though I would recommend always using the buddy system and there will be lots of places you can go and many activities for you! There was always so much to do, I never felt limited in what I wanted to do by safety.

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

Finances

* 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)

The stipend is always enough for food. I paid for trips that I took separately from the program on the weekends and that's about it. You do not have to take those trips and many would say it is better to not go on any additional trips so that you can have more time with your homestay family and rest more. I chose to travel, which is relatively inexpensive in all three countries, and I am so glad I did.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? It varied from place to place. There were weeks were I didn't spend any of my own money. The most I ever needed to spend in one week was probably around $15 on top of the money I had from the stipend

Language

* 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
  • International Students
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
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?
  • No day is like the other. You get to see, do, and learn so much. My life will never be this exciting again.
  • All the other students on the program were incredible and made my experience richer and exponentially better.
  • We split our time between cities and more rural (and always extraordinarily beautiful) settings
* What could be improved?
  • The time in each country could be richer if we had less time in the classroom. Having so many lectures meant we absorbed/retained less and had less time with host families and to explore the area.
  • I loved community building sessions! I wish we had had even more!
  • SIT should provide more involved assistance to students throughout the visa process, particularly for international students.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Trust the program, trust your administrators, trust all the other students, trust your instincts and don't sweat the small things.

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 Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.