I first studied abroad while in high school and the experience has without a doubt shaped who I have become today. It has shaped the people I’m able to communicate with (in both the people that I’ve met and the languages I’ve learned), the places I’m able to go, and even where and what I study. A main influence in deciding to attend Drake University was their availability of study abroad programs and their help and support in ensuring as many students who are interested can find a means to study abroad.
Last semester, I studied with one of Drake’s new partnerships in Denmark through the organization Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS). The classes were engaging and about topics not typically taught at Drake. I got to explore a lot of Europe, as my classroom moved far beyond four walls of a school building, to the coffee shop down the street, to the gym across from my house, to the offices of high officials in Bosnia. The cultural insights I was privy too once again shaped the outcome of my life. So much so, that I am now once again studying abroad with a partner program of Drake, this time with AIFS in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The culture, climate, people, language; all of it is undoubtedly far different than that in Denmark. The difference in gender equality has certainly been a noticeable difference, but I’m thoroughly enjoying gaining firsthand experience in different cultures and forming my own opinions based on perceptions made with my own two eyes and ears. Seeing how men engage with women; listening to the catcalls, or lack thereof; observing body language; talking with locals, both men and women, in a casual setting and trying to understand the common attitude of the general public when it comes to gender roles. It all becomes so much more real when observed first hand rather than read about in even the best academic texts.
At Drake, I have a concentration in Women and Genders Studies, and while the program and classes have been enlightening and engaging, nothing beats active firsthand learning. Although not the guiding influence behind my study abroad decisions, gender (in)equality has been just one of the many things I’ve been able to focus on abroad and consider from both an insider’s and outsider’s perspective. I’m so thankful to Drake for preparing me with critical thinking skills back home and allowing me the opportunity to apply what I learn in class to the world at large around me. I look forward to continuing my observations, experiencing firsthand how feminism and movements like #HeForShe affect the world around me, and in consequence, my own very personal experiences.
AIFS San Jose, Costa Rica