Name: Lindsay Caes
Hometown: Durant, Iowa
Major: Marketing and Management
In what country did you study abroad? Ecuador, Peru, India
How long were you there?
I studied in Ecuador for a semester. At the time, part of the program was to travel to Peru to visit Machu Picchu. The program did not include a trip to the Galapagos Islands so I decided after the end of the trip in Peru that I would fly back to Ecuador. My sister came down to visit and we went to the Islands together. In total I was there about 5 months. I got the itch to go abroad again just shortly after being home. During the fall semester of my junior year I saw a poster for a study abroad trip during the summer for India. I said why not? Although I was the only St. Ambrose student enrolled, I stuck with it and went on my own. I stayed in India for a month.
Why did you choose to study in Ecuador and India?
I really can't come up with a reason as to why I chose the countries I did. I think for me it was more about what classes were offered and what they would count for on my program evaluation. When looking for classes for the semester study abroad there were several options. I wanted to go somewhere people don't typically tour. Going to Germany or Italy can always be done and you would just be another tourist. Going into a third world country as a tourist is not something that people typically do so that is why I went. Plus, going to third world country allowed me to do more on a smaller budget. The reason I went to India was as simple as the poster I saw. Similar to going to Ecuador, I wanted to go somewhere you don't hear people are normally visiting. I was eager to go abroad again so India just happened to fit into my schedule.
What are some of your best memories?
The greatest memories in Ecuador were created with the people I met. The other study abroad students were amazing. The greatest feeling came when I met my host family because to them you are family. Their house is truly your house. The families make you feel very welcome and are as interested in you as you are in them. Going to the top of Machu Picchu was breath taking. I can't say that I have a bad memory of the trip. The trip to India was the same. I knew no one that was going and was the first one to arrive to the school. I was welcomed at the school by the night watchmen. It wasn't long until people arrived and the fun started. I met people from the states and from other countries. My roommate was from Sweden. I think the best memory was created the first day the school gave us bikes to ride. These were not your typical American bikes though. They had been broken several times but hashed back together in some way. During our campus tour numerous things happened that about killed us from laughing so hard. People had peddles fall off, seats came undone or lost a cushion and handlebars lowered while riding. One boy had to hold the side of the bus to make it back to our building. It was a mess but hysterical.
What was the hardest part about studying in a different country?
There is always something hard about leaving. To go to Ecuador, it meant that I would miss the birth of my niece and other family events. I missed other family events when I went to India as well but those events happen every year. They were here when I returned. I was nervous about going to India more than other places because of the language barrier but I viewed it as a challenge to undertake. Despite the things I missed here in the states, I wouldn't take back my experiences for anything. If I had more time at St. Ambrose I would travel more because after college you are out in the "real world." Travel opportunities like those in college don't arise often. I took the opportunities when I could.
One other hard but awesome educational opportunity about studying in a different country was the change in culture. Things that are generally accepted here in the US may not be accepted overseas. Certain colors may not be appropriate or styles of clothing. The body language and gestures are different as well. These things can be hard to adapt to but you catch yourself doing them after returning home! One of the best examples I can give happened in India. A group of students was at the police station one afternoon to get our visas. This can be an all day thing because the process seems unorganized but it is what works for them in that culture. So to pass the time we thought we would play cards. As we began to play we didn't understand why people were staring. Little did we know, playing cards is illegal in public. Oops!
How did your experience abroad impact you as a person?
Learning about the everyday struggles that other people in third world countries face brings to light how well off we are here in America. I was taught not to take what I have for granted and to be truly thankful for what I do have. To see people get by with so little makes not be materialistic. Some people have to have the newest, biggest, most expensive thing but I have learned live more modestly.
Any advice to other students about studying abroad?
If you want to go somewhere weigh all the options. Don't be hesitant because of the price tag. An opportunity to go abroad like this may not come again. Going through college is almost always cheaper than trying to go on your own later in life. And no matter where you decide to go, just remember to go with an open mind and open arms to embrace another culture.