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Study Abroad Spotlight: Meet Mary Lohberg

Group of students in Ecuador
Mary Lohberg (kneeling in first row, far right) poses with fellow Occupational Therapy students in Ecuador.

February 2013

Name: Mary Lohberg
Hometown: Dubuque, IA
Major: Psychology, 1st year MOT student
What country or countries did you study abroad in? Ecuador
How long were you there? Just over three weeks

Why did you choose to study in this location?
Our program concentrated on pediatric occupational therapy. I was very interested to see how cultural impacts of living in a less medically-advanced country would change the views and practices of OT services. I also was very excited for the opportunity to do service in conjunction with studying abroad, because I have always wanted to take part in a service trip abroad. With this program, we got the best of both worlds.

What is your favorite memory?
It's hard to pick one favorite, as each experience seemed like the chance of a lifetime. We visited the "Middle of the World," 0°0°0°, and many other awesome places! Certainly, the days we got to play/dance/sing with the children or adults and see all of their smiles always felt great. The best memory, however, for many of us OT students may have been Terry Schlabach's surprise "yodel" from around the corner of a mountain during one of our hikes. She told us it was her favorite thing to do around the "snarly trees."

How did your experience abroad impact you as a person?
I think everyone who went on this trip (the rest of the OT students, Social Work students, and Speech-Pathology students) would all agree that what we learned and came back with was equal to, if not more than, the service and lessons we left for those we worked with. We were thanked so many times, over and over again, for the services we provided and new treatments/technology that we taught. In reality, however, there were times when I felt they gave us much more. The hugs of the children we worked with (many suffering from cerebral palsy or other multiple diagnoses), were bigger than any hugs I have felt before, and their smiles were so contagious! Playing and interacting with kids who had conditions we could never imagine–but were so easily entertained–had a great impact.

What advice would you give to other students thinking about studying abroad?
Do it! Go outside of your comfort zone. And when you do, totally immerse yourself. Live the life of those around you. Try the food (many of us tried cuy..aka guinea pig!), speak the language as best as you can, and take part in the local traditions.


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