Experience of a Lifetime January 13, 2020

By (Sociology, Temple University) - abroad from 08/17/2019 to 12/10/2019 with

SIT Study Abroad/IHP: Food Systems: Agriculture, Sustainability, and Justice

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Unique cultural engagement and education from professors, different kinds of farmers, local families, indigenous leaders, community activists, clinicians, conservationists, etc etc. A greater understanding of our world's food systems and colonial/agricultural history, practical farming experience, research and ethnographic data collection experience, and so much 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.

This semester provides true experiential learning. I don't think I've ever learned so much in such a short period of time! The actual workload was very manageable and consisted mainly of readings and short essays.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program director Joe spends about a week with us in every location and teaches a few courses, he's awesome. Throughout the whole semester, we are with a traveling PoliSci/Econ professor and a 'fellow' who organizes much of our community building and acts as a counselor kind of.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We lived in a mixture of homestays, hotels and hostels. All of my homestay families were incredibly welcoming and really helped with my cultural understanding of their respective communities. (For males:::: it seems like there aren't many who go on this program, so if you're the only male you'll likely room alone in most hotels and Malawi.)

* Food:

WOW!! You will leave this semester with so many new recipes and incredible food memories. Food at the homestays is especially wonderful and you can usually cook with your family if you want!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

While we did live with local families, the program was very rigidly structured so it was difficult to really make connections with locals outside of the program setting.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had injuries and health issues in every country and they were all taken care of very quickly and with care by the SIT staff/local hospitals. We have health insurance through the program.

* Safety:

I felt very safe in every place we went to. I took the same precautions that I do while walking around at home.

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

Although this program was very rigidly structured (due to the constant travel and countless different site visits every week) and strict, I have gained so much valuable information, crazy memories, and lifelong friendships. If you are a person who needs a lot of alone time, flexibility and independence... please strongly consider that for these four months you won't have much of that!! I am one of those people, but I would still do this program a million times over.


* 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 are given stipends every few weeks (taken from our tuition) which should provide for inexpensive food and transportation. We do have a week off during the fall semester in Ecuador and some weekends are free so it is important to save up a few hundred dollars for travel/food/etc throughout the semester.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? /
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? /


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

We are given a few 'survival language' classes in each country. It's really what you make of it. Some host family members will only speak their native language, and some guest speakers will have English translators with them.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Advanced Spanish
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Download language apps for Spanish, Chichewa and Italian! But if you go in not knowing any of these languages, you'll be totally fine.

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?
  • Host Families
  • Agroecology !!!
  • Studying with students from different universities
* What could be improved?
  • More free time
  • /
  • /
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That I should take more photos!!

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.'