Alesha Hamilton cech ecuador Immersed in Culture and Education

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Part 3: Now What?

My plan for dissemination of this experience begins this coming fall semester when I present at a Turner Scholars meeting about Ecuador and encourage others to study and serve abroad. When the information for next year’s trip becomes available, I will be putting together a Power Point presentation, with the help of the faculty advisors from the trip to ensure that all information is correct and that they approve what I plan to say about the trip. I am also planning on working at the fall study abroad fair at the booth for this trip. Additionally, I am planning on coming to speak with the LSLS 3050 class next year before they travel to Ecuador.

While in Ecuador, our daily schedule was constantly changing. As a person who typically sticks to a strict schedule, the first few days in Ecuador were a bit stressful for me. I was not accustomed to “going with the flow.” After a few days, I got used to the lack of structure and decided to live in the moment. I think I enjoyed Ecuador twice as much by letting go of my anxieties about schedule and time. The first three weeks I was back from Ecuador, I did not have much of a schedule. I had not started my summer internship and was not taking classes. However, this gave me time to spend with family, visit with old friends, leisure read, and reflect upon my experience in Ecuador. Going forward, I am plan to be more open to change and lack of strict schedule.

I believe that part of what drives me to want to travel and learn about other cultures is my interest in psychology. It intrigues me to observe the behavior of people in my environment. By traveling to other areas of the United States, I feel as though I have seen just how much behavior can vary, even in different parts of the same state, or remain the same across many people in different states. The opportunity to study abroad made me realize that, even in different countries, basic human behaviors and emotions remain the same—despite a change in language and customs. However, people also have their own different traditions and ways of navigating daily life.

Author Ola Joseph once said, “Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.” This quote sums up my views about the importance of getting to know people different from yourself. In Ecuador, I learned just as much about myself and my own personality as I did about the people of Ecuador. I think that people who engage with those from different cultures (even in the United States) have the capacity to become more understanding and have a more well-rounded view of society. A piece of advice that I would give people preparing for study abroad or service learning experiences would be to keep an open mind and be respectful. You will be uncomfortable at times. You may be traveling to a place where many people do not speak your own native tongue. The food may not agree with your stomach, rules of etiquette may differ, and the air may smell different than it does at home. Embrace those differences.

Coming into my freshman year at UC, I knew I wanted to go abroad during my college career. Never did I think I would embark on a trip at the end of my freshman year. Within a few days of my return from Ecuador, I spent hours online researching UC study abroad programs through UC International, Serve Beyond Cincinnati trips, and outside programs I heard about at the study abroad fair in the fall of my freshman year. Ecuador awakened in me a drive to serve here and abroad. I am hoping I get more fulfilling opportunities in my next few years at UC.

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