A semester of growth, friendship, and learning (too much to sum up in a line!) Past Review

By (Political Science, Peace and Justice Studies, Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/25/2013 to 12/14/2013 with

SIT Study Abroad: IHP - Health and Community: Globalization, Culture and Care (Spring 2)

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I chose IHP Health and Community, because I knew it was the kind of opportunity that I would likely never have again. I think that I grew a lot as person and some pretty incredible friendships. But it's so hard to sum up my experience! I wish I could do it all over again.

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.

Keep an open mind! IHP can be rigorous in a way that you're not necessarily used to. My experience with our faculty and main class sessions (generally 90 minutes, once a week) was okay, but many students were dissatisfied with the caliber of instruction. Our professors were quite inexperienced, but this changes from semester to semester! And the class sessions are just one component of the academic program. You'll be spending just as much time (probably much more!) in guest lectures and site visits, which can be beyond incredible. You may find the academic experience to be quite dependent on the country administration! Our academic program in India was fantastic. Coming from that experience, many were disappointed with the Vietnam program. We were reminded to consider every experience - even the really frustrating ones - as opportunities for learning. With regards to the workload, I found myself spending much less time on schoolwork and readings than I do at my home institution. My number one priority when I came home from school was to spend time with my homestay family, which I think is a mentality the program really supports. (On the flip side, I did spend a lot more time in a structured academic setting than I do at home, particularly in India!)

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

This was very much dependent on the country! I think everyone was incredibly happy with our country team in New Delhi. The staff were super supportive, accessible, fun, and very knowledgable. They made a major contribution to my academic experience, and I think did a great job of supporting our fellow and faculty. Some had mixed feelings about the administration in Hanoi - I think mostly related to their role in the academic program. In Hanoi, we did have the opportunity to spend time with college students at our host university, which was super cool. People also had mixed feelings about our administration in South Africa. They were less involved logistically (which put a bit of strain on our fellow) and more involved academically, in a way that some appreciated, while others did not.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My homestays absolutely made my experience! I'm still in touch with many of my homestay siblings online. Coming home and spending time with my homestay family is one of the things I miss most about IHP. I think my class had maybe two or three not-so-great homestay experiences over the course of the semester. Generally very, very positive experiences!

* Food:

I had a very positive experience with the food! I'm a vegetarian and didn't have many problems finding things I could eat. India was very easy, Vietnam was a bit trickier (restaurants in Hanoi in particular; my homestay was very accommodating), and South Africa worked out fine. My Zwelethemba homestay mother purchased lots of soya products in anticipation of our arrival - so thoughtful! You receive a stipend for meals that aren't provided by the program, which can be a bit small, but was much more than I had expected! Many homestay families also offered students bag lunches, which was really sweet.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It can be tricky, particularly when you're spending just a month - and often even less - in one place, spending much of your time with your classmates from U.S. institutions. This is why homestay experiences are so important! I spent a lot of time with extended family in Hanoi and Cape Town, which was really wonderful.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

A good third of our class (myself included) got sick on the sleeper train from our rural stay in UP back to Delhi. It was an extremely chaotic and stressful situation for the country staff and faculty (we were leaving for country #2 the next day!), and they handled it incredibly well. We were provided with immediate support, a medical consultation within an hour of our arrival, constant check-ins, and many of us were accompanied to and from a local clinic. (Basically, I can't say enough good things about the India team!)

* Safety:

I largely adhered to the safety guidelines we were provided with, and I never felt particularly unsafe. I avoided travelling alone outside of my immediate homestay neighborhood, didn't go out at night when we were told not to, etc. Several students dealt with theft in the Cape Town city bowl. That kind of thing can be difficult to avoid, but keeping valuables (particularly smartphones, if you bring one!) out of sight is generally a good idea.

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)

We were provided with stipends for transportation and food expenses in every country. Our stipends in DC were fairly generous. In India, virtually all of our meals were provided for us. We were given bus passes in Hanoi, and it was generally easy to remain within budget on food. All meals were provided in Zwelethemba. In the city bowl, the food stipend was a little small. However, it was generally possible to get by on program funding. Of course, you'll want to spend money on more than the bare necessities (I did a lot of holiday shopping), and there is the issue of vacation, but I generally spent the same amount of money (or less) than I do on a weekly basis at my home institution.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • 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?
  • Homestay experiences
  • Site visits and guest lectures
  • Bonding with my fellow students!
* What could be improved?
  • Quality of travelling faculty
  • Community building
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I didn't mind this and in fact kind of expected it, but many of my classmates were surprised and a little unhappy with how structured the program was - particularly limitations on weekend excursions, opportunities to go out, etc. I think it's important to keep in mind that you only have a couple weeks in each location, and there's so much to see and experience in your immediate neighborhood and in your immediate (homestay) family! :)