Wes Brown is studying Bioresource Research through the College of Agricultural Sciences and International Studies. Last summer, he participated in the IE3 Global International Internship Child Family Health International (CFHI) in Ecuador. This entry is an excerpt from his blog post for IE3 Global about a particular experience that stood out and made a lasting impression.  

Wes with Gustavo's family memberMe and two other students in the program set off on an 8 hour hike through the Amazon Jungle. It was possibly the most difficult backpacking route I have taken. A foot deep layer of mud constituted our trail for a majority of the trek, we got stuck in the mud and our boots pulled off, we walked over steep hills and through rivers, and even got our path blocked by a poisonous snake that can jump a meter.

We hiked all this way because we wanted to stay with a Shuar family and learn about their lifestyle and culture. It is humbling to have learned that the same trail we hiked in 8 hours, a Shuar family will hike in 3-4 hours, carrying a box of chickens, and children. When we arrived we were greeted by a Shuar man named Gustavo and his family.  Gustavo has a wife and 8 children. Once his children grow up, they get married and make a home next to the original so the children and their families all live together. Traveling through the forestNeedless to say, we were surrounded by adorable children.

They let us stay in a beautifully constructed Shuar hut and provided our meals, which consisted almost entirely of bananas. The first day we spent trekking through the jungle to a sacred waterfall. The Shuar have an interesting ceremony they use when they want to know what the future hold. The person must fast for about 4 days then journey into the jungle to the waterfall. At the waterfall he/she must drink a prepared concoction of herbs and jungle plants that act as a hallucinogen. They sit at the waterfall and say that the user can see visions of themselves in the future or potential future husbands or wives and children. This is in fact what Gustavo has done before and found out who he was to marry. We said goodbye to Gustavo and his family and headed back to Puyo exceptionally dirty and covered in mud from the hike.Wes near the beach

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Courtney Kutzler is a senior working towards an undergraduate Psychology and 
International Degree. Last year, she completed back-to-back abroad programs in Miguel de Allende, Mexico through IE3 International Internships and a faculty-led program in Costa Rica through the Department of World Cultures and Languages. Since returning, Courtney has spent her time advising students who want to go abroad with her position as an International Ambassador through the Office of Global Opportunities. Read on to learn more about her unique experience!

One of the 4 year old boys I worked with.jpgMy first few days in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I was overwhelmed and felt as though I did not know a single word in Spanish. Throughout my first week, I was constantly lost and confused. As I explored the streets, I learned that many of the people I met were welcoming, understanding, and helpful.With the progression of the next few weeks, I could not stop smiling as I walked around in the community and at the daycare I was interning at. I knew I belonged there because experiences like cleaning up poop from one of the kid’s pants or dissolving temper tantrums, that can be seen as difficult aspects when working with children, only motivated me more to continue interacting with them.

One stormy day, I was invited to play soccer with some of the friends I had made (other volunteers and locals). The plan was to get together at 3PM, but we didn’t leave until around 6PM. When my friends arrived, we all piled into the bed of a pickup truck that rattled as though it would fall apart at the next speed bump. There was lightning in the distance and I could see storm clouds rolling in. My initial thought was that if we had left when we planned to, we wouldn’t have had to worry about the storm. In that moment, I reminded myself that this was just part of the adventure.

My friend, Noel, drove a few miles out of town to a seemingly random field. We got out of the truck with our soccer ball and started to warm up. The teams were boys versus girls. The game was fast and with the wet ground and the lack of soccer gear (e.g. shin guards and cleats) we were covered in mud, sweat, and bruises by the end. Even more noteworthy, we all could not stop laughing. This experience was one of the many highlights from my experience in Mexico.       During my time abroad, I got to practice Spanish and learn about the culture. I did this with my friends, colleagues, and the children at the daycare. I learned and experienced important aspects of the culture by trying diffA friend and I on a weekend trip to Guanajuatoerent foods, learning about the history of the town, playing/watching soccer and boxing, and talking with an open mind and heart to everyone I met.

One of the skills I developed that I am the most proud of is the ability to adapt and be flexible. When something was supposed to start at a particular time and didn’t (like playing soccer), I always would think of it as part of the adventure. At the daycare, a lesson plan or activity would not take the time that was planned or the children would need extra time or support to complete it. Or there was some time for unstructured free time. In these moments, I got the opportunity to think outside of the box and problem solve.

The challenges above helped me grow both personally and professionally. The patience and interpersonal communication skills that I gained through speaking in a second language, attempting to understand individuals’ perspectives different than mine, and applying the knowledge that I’ve gained at Oregon State University about working with cultural groups and with children are invaluable. I knew at the end of this internship that I would utilize these skills on future trips abroad, working with individuals from different backgrounds in the United States, and in my future career.

Immediately after my return from Mexico, I prepared for a study abroad in Costa Rica. I knew this experience would be different than my internship. I was anxious about possible problems, but I was able to embrace it and I was excited for what might not “go as planned” because I’ve learned that those experiences are usually the ones that stand out and are the most meaningful.

After arriving in Costa Rica, I found myself homesick from Mexico. At first, I felt like I Ziplining over the cloud forest!shouldn’t be homesick over a place that I had only lived in for 10 weeks. However, after reflecting further, I was thrilled that I had such a meaningful experience in Mexico that I missed it so much. I was able to apply many of the social skills I had learned in Mexico, but I was aware that the culture was different and I continued to be sensitive and learn from and about those differences.

In Costa Rica, one of the most significant aspects for me was to have a host family. At first, it was uncomfortable. My family was very welcoming and friendly, but I was still a stranger occupying their house. It took time and many discussions for us to get to know each other before I truly felt at home. I got a better sense of the culture as I talked to them and was included in family activities. One important activity was watching soccer with the whole family and all of their friends. My host mom would make a huge meal and we would all watch the game together. This summer, Mexico and Costa Rica played against each other during the Gold Cup. Of course, I was asked who I was going to be rooting for. I made the mistake of outing to everyone that I wanted Mexico to win. The whole night my family called me Mexicana and made a point to cheer every time Mexico messed up or if Costa Rica got the lead. This experience made me feel more connected with my family because all families have differences, and in the end, we were all still having fun and bonding. I now know that I always have a home in Costa Rica.

The classes I had in Costa Rica and the experiences with my family improved my Spanish speaking and understanding. Both experiences gave me the ability to be more culturally aware, tested my adaptability, and improved my understanding of two very different cultures. Mexico was an experience that centered around my work environment and colleagues while Costa Rica focused on learning Spanish and utilizing it with my family and the rest of the community.

My best advice to others planning on going abroad is to connect with as many people as possible. This can be done even with a simple genuine smile or by spending time talking to a stranger. These connections will be helpful while abroad and can be life-long academic, professional, or familiar contacts. Lastly, make sure to keep an open mind and take advantage of opportunities that occur when abroad. (I was told once to always say “yes”…of course, within reason.) These are the experiences that will create massive personal growth and memories that will always be with you.Dia de Guanacasta

To learn more about the international opportunities are OSU, click here!

Allyson_FaceAllyson Satter completed an international internship in Loni, India with IE3 Global during the winter term of her senior year. Majoring in Public Health through the college of Public Health and Human Sciences, Allyson chose a program centered on social medicine and its impact on populations within rural communities. Read on to learn more about the culture differences that stood out to Allyson and how she used this internship to further her career!

At one point, going to India was just a dream. I was a freshman looking at another student’s blog and wishing I could experience the same program. A couple of years later, I found myself sitting in LAX waiting for my 16 hour direct flight to Dubai and then to Mumbai. India now holds some of my fondest memories, not a single day goes by without something popping into my mind.

As a graduate in Public Health, this was the perfect way to end my Bachelor’s degree because I was able to apply it to real life scenarios. I remember sitting in one of my Public Health classes and thinking “what the heck am I going to do with this degree? Where do I even start?!” India led me in the right direction; I realized how much I loved promoting health, wellness, and community resources after I spent 3 hours teaching Indian children at a private school in Loni. 72 hours after I returned to Oregon, I found myself in an interview for Kaiser Permanente and was hired 3 hours later. I would be lying if I said India didn’t come up in my interview, it practically related to every question! I am grateful for the opportunity I was given in India, as well as the doors it has opened for my future and the lifelong friends I have made. I encourage every student to break out of the mold and push the boundaries we have been accustomed to; be a minority, experience a new culture, and embrace what the world has to offer.

Here are some interesting things I learned about Loni, India:

  • No one really shakes hands; it caught me off guard when someone actually did. But, on your birthday everyone shakes your hand!
  • There is always room. i.e. a family of four on a motorcycle, 10 people in one cab, or people just hanging onto the outside of a car/bus/train.
  • Forget about PDA, it is just unacceptable in rural areas. However it is perfectly acceptable to hold hands, hug, and lean on the same sex, but homosexuality is not acceptable. Trust me, I am confused too.Allyson_Kids_Outside
  • A milk shake is not actually a milk shake. You may get flavored milk or a smoothie.
  • When you order a grilled cheese, make sure to say hold the corn…but really, it normally comes with corn. Weird.
  • Anytime a person of higher authority walks into a room, everyone must stand until they are told to be seated.
  • Oh you want a pizza? Enjoy your ketchup pizza sauce.
  • Your personal space vanishes once you land in India, an entire road could be available but a stranger will still brush up against you.
  • Every dish can be eaten with your hands i.e. rice, Dahl, soup, you name it.
  • There are no voicemails, the phone just keeps ringing, and ringing, and ringing.
  • Eggs are considered a meat (aka non-vegetarian).
  • Small white squares with a green dot in the middle indicate a product is vegetarian.
  • Restaurants take pride in calling themselves 100% vegetarian. Some even get a little crazy with 200% vegetarian, overachievers.
  • I still haven’t figured out why, but many pastas taste sweet.
  • His and Her cologne are advertised with the saying “0% Gas,” I am still trying to understand what that means.
  • Expect a little masala (mixture of spices) in your lemonade.
  • Speaking of masala, they have masala EVERYTHING. Chips, candy, top ramen, fruit, soda, water, you name it. India loves masala.
  • “Red Label” is a brand of alcohol and not a great word usage to describe the chocolate bar you are looking for…whoops!Allyson_Hand
  • Milk comes in a plastic bag.
  • Instead of just saying my cousin, you specify female/male by saying my cousin brother or cousin sister.
  • There is a cheese commercial where kids make a sub sandwich and say “American!” and then boom, they are Cowboys and Native Americans.
  • There is a lack of structure, or maybe a sense of entitlement among individuals. Do not be surprised when someone cuts in front of you.
  • The caste system still very much exists, unfortunately. You only marry within your caste, and even how you speak to a person depends on your caste.
  • When you cross the street make sure to look both ways, and then look again, and again, actually just keep looking until you get to the other side. They are supposed to drive on the opposite side as the U.S. but that doesn’t always happen, no one follows the rules.
  • All tea and coffee is made with milk and sugar, you won’t get black anything unless specified.
  • There are countless commercials about fairness cream or face wash, forget Jergens natural glow, my skin tone is in style here!
  • Every girl has their nose pierced on the left side, I have met one woman with it on the right like mine.
  • Rings on the second toe symbolize a married woman, as well as gold necklaces.
  • There is cilantro in every dish.
  • Noodle dishes are titled based on their spice level. Mild is Shezwan, medium is Singapore, and hot is Hong Kong. But no one knows why they chose those names.
  • Eye glasses are referred to as specs.
  • If you run out of minutes on your phone, you obviously cannot make any calls/texts, but others can still call you.
  • Cricket is some serious business, you know a game can take 8 hours? ONE game!
  • Tapestries surprisingly don’t exist in India, unless you are expecting a picture of the last supper.
  • When it is your birthday, you can expect to have your friends feed you cake. Just picture a line of people putting cake in your mouth. Mmmm.
  • As a sign of respect, you touch a person’s feet and then touch your chest.
  • The guest truly is god, prepare to be pampered in every way imaginable.Allyson_School_Kids

To learn more about international opportunities at Oregon State University, click here!

Sylvie Brugerolle is a Resident Director with IE3 Global in Poitiers, France. In her entry, Sylvie shares what 25 years of experience with international students has taught her. Read on to discover more about life in France and the challenges and joys of studying abroad.

What brought you to be a Resident Director?

Sylvie BurgerolleA fantastic opportunity! For a year, I welcomed an exchange student into my home. It was a wonderful experience and at the end of that year I learned that the program was looking for a coordinator in my city, so I applied with enthusiasm. I was selected even-though my studies and previous professional career didn’t specifically prepare me for the work; I am trained as a lawyer and worked as a financial advisor in a bank.

25 years later, I continue to be glad that I chose a different direction professionally and transitioned to a career rich in human and cultural connections.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?

The history of the city primarily. Poitiers, one of the oldest cities in France, has an exceptional historical, cultural and artistic heritage. In addition, the long academic tradition (more than five centuries!) makes the medium-sized city one of the youngest and most dynamic in France – and one of the most international as well. Poitiers is the city in France where the ratio of students to inhabitants is the highest and one of the cities welcoming the largest number of international students. There is always something to do in Poitiers and international students, whether they come for a large city or a city of more modest size, appreciate the active cultural life.

The location of the city is another plus. Situated an hour and a half from Paris and Bordeaux (and soon less than an hour with a new high-speed train line!), the geographic location in the center of France permits one to travel easily in France and Europe.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?

Whenever I have a free moment, I pick up a paint brush to decorate any of the media I can find – canvases, furniture and porcelain.

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?

I greatly appreciate the aspect of “multi-tasking” inherent in the resident director position; academic, practical, psychological, administrative, and sometimes legal. It is not a position with the threat of routine or boredom.

My greatest joy, confirmed each year, is to observe how the students change during their stay. The maturity and independence that they gain over the course of the experiences they have, the challenges they face and overcome, to see how, cut off from their cultural and emotional supports, they find in themselves the capacity to adapt and develop a new openness.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

Multi-tasking, which I highlighted above as my favorite aspect of my work, isn’t paradoxically always the easiest to manage. My priority is to make myself immediately available to the requests of students no matter what administrative tasks I might be in the middle of doing. It is sometimes difficult to predict one’s schedule because one never knows the tasks the day will bring, what question or request the students might have that needs to be attended to: discuss a course with a student?, respond to questions about a misunderstood grade?, consult about a relationship with a professor?, manage the relations between a student and their host family?, console a student?, search for the best price for a train ticket with a student preparing to travel?, find new accommodation for a student?, assist with an administrative task a student must complete?, etc., etc. And all of this might fall into your lap at the same time!

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?

The first is realizing that the French they practiced in their courses in the USA isn’t really what they hear in France. Young French people speak at great speed, not well-articulated and use expressions that are typically foreign. Visiting students cannot allow themselves to doubt their abilities so that they don’t get discourage. If not, the student risks seeking refuge in their comfort zone by searching out the company of other English speakers.

Then, they have to understand and adapt to the French university system which is quite different from what the students are familiar with. Professors are less accessible to students, administrative assistance less available, more autonomy in the work expected from the student and grading of homework is more strict.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?

To leave behind all expectations, to exercise patience, to understand that their host country doesn’t always work according to the system they are accustomed to in the USA and to have a deep store of good humor available.

What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?

Today we find in France, as a result of globalization, more or less all of the products sold in the USA. Don’t hesitate to bring a little of your world with you, however – a favorite book, photos of your friends and family to share with others, a collection of quotes to read on challenging days, your favorite candy.

Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?

Mark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, intolerance and narrow mindedness”. Leaving your comfort zone to adapt to another language, another culture, another educational system, another environment is indeed an unparalleled opportunity to exercise your thinking in the complexity of the world, to make it more open, imaginative and connected.

Go to Oregon State University’s Office of Global Opportunities for more information on international programs, scholarships and more!

Morgan Thompson is a student at Oregon State University studying Sociology and Psychology with a minor in Communications. During the  winter of 2015, she decided to intern with IE3 Global in South Africa. Most of Petting a Cheetah at the Animal Sanctuarythe work that she completed was centered around Human Rights and the political history of South Africa. Read on learn more about her life-changing experience! 

One of my most memorable days in Cape Town was a very physically and emotionally straining day. This was the day I visited Robben Island. Robben Island is the Alcatraz of South Africa. It is internationally known for the fact that Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 of the 27 years he served behind bars before the fall of apartheid. Kgalema Motlanthe, who also served as President of South Africa, spent 10 years on Robben Island as a political prisoner, as did the current President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma.

Prison cell of Nelson MandelaOur tour began with a forty minute boat ride from the downtown waterside of Cape Town out to the island. We were fortunate enough to get seats on the smaller jet boat that made much faster time! The first half of the tour was by bus around the island showing off the different prison sections, the housing for the guards and officials, the nature scenes of the island, and the Leper sections. Robben Island was also where people suffering from leprosy were sent for many years to be kept in isolation from the general population.

The second half of the tour was through the actual prison. This section was led by a former political prisoner who had spent 18 years of his life in this prison. It was heart wrenching to hear of the torture and abuse that these individuals who were fighting for freedom, equality, and the end of Apartheid faced. It was especially powerful to hear the story from Robben Island Political Prisoner-Tour Guidea former prisoner and really made me realize how recent these events transpired. It really made me think how fortunate I was to be born into the circumstances I was and the sacrifices many people made to make that possible.

This was a very humbling experience that really made me realize that a violation to human rights anywhere is a violation of human rights everywhere, and that it is our responsibility to learn from the mistakes of the past. This experience gave me the courage and motivation to change my career focus and spend my life making the world a better place for all.Group Photo on Robben Island with Table Mntn and CPT in backgroud

To learn more about study abroad and internship opportunities at OSU, click here!

Madeline-Lennon (1)Madeline Lennon is a Resident Director with IE3 Global in Santander, Spain. Originally from Ireland, Madeline has a passion for travel, adventure and Spanish culture. Using these skills, she helps students studying abroad make unforgettable memories, lifelong friends and develop a love for Spain. Read on to learn more about her exciting position with IE3 Global!

What brought you to be a Resident Director?

I was living and working in Santander, teaching English as a foreign language in the Language centre, Centro de idiomas de la Universidad de Cantabria (CIUC) where the Oregon students have classes. Someone was needed to be the on-site Coordinator, who was based in Santander, was a native speaker of English and interested in working with study abroad students, so that somebody turned out to be me! That was over 10 years ago now and I feel I was really fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time!

What are some unique aspects of your city and country? 

I’m actually from a small town in Ireland, and I am still very much Irish at heart! My ‘adopted’ country is Spain. It is a fantastically diMadeline-Lennon (3)verse country; each region has something wonderful to offer, from distinct cuisines and traditions to art, history and architecture. From the smallest village hidden in the mountains to the bigger cities, there really is a lot to see and do and tons to experience! Santander, where our program is based is a really beautiful medium sized city, lying on the north coast on a Peninsula completely surrounded by golden beaches. Inland it’s surrounded by the mountains. It really is picture postcard stuff!! It’s an incredibly easy city to get around in, it’s not too big but, better still, it’s not too small. It has a wonderful lively, compact city centre, with all modern amenities and everything in walking distance. The students reside with families near the centre of town and are also in walking distance from the University.

What I particularly like about the city as a base for a study abroad program is tMadeline- Lennon (4)he fact that it is very safe and is not over run with English speakers, like you might find in the larger cities of Madrid, Barcelona or Sevilla. While there are other foreign students around, many from the European Erasmus program, they are also here to immerse themselves in Spanish language and culture. I also love the fact that we have an international airport with low cost flights to many Spanish and European cities. The bus and train system running from Santander is also really good and there are plenty of destinations and combinations to choose from. The program is structured in such a way that students are free to travel most weekends.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?

Gosh, difficult questionMadeline-Lennon (7)…I have quite a lot of contact with the students, generally seeing them on a daily basis, and over the duration of the program a relationship builds up; we talk quite a lot and do activities and excursions together so I get to know the students quite well and they get to know me. In result, there’s probably not much ‘important’ stuff they don’t know about me. However, I don’t think I have ever mentioned that I came second in the All Ireland under 8’s 80 metre sprint; I was 7 years of age.

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?

My favorite aspect of the job is the interaction with the students and teachers. I have always found that the students who sign up for study abroad programs to be fantastic to work with. I have met so many really nice people over the years; every group is different so it always feels new. I really enjoy forming part of the team.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

This is 10 week intensive immersion program so it is all engines go right from the start. The first week is crucial to a successful program. There is a lot going on and you have to be a step ahead of everything, whilst making sure that everyone is settling in and doing well. I am very fortunate as our students have been well informed and guided by the staff in Oregon before coming here. That really helps making the transition period a lot smoother for everyone.Madeline-Lennon (6)

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?

Again while it is true to say ‘Spain is different,’ it is a modern country in the European Union, so I think the initial challengMadeline-Lennon (8)e of deciding which study abroad program to choose and then setting out and organising it! It’s plain sailing after that, at least on the Santander Program.

This immersion program is not just about learning a language though, the students LIVE here for a term and that involves adapting to a new country, language, host family, teachers, classes and timetable to name but a few! All of these are challenges, and while not to be taken lightly, our students rise well to the challenge and by the first week most students have adapted and are living life like the locals. In fact it usually turns out that the biggest challenge the students face is the reality that after 10 weeks the program does comes to an end and they have to go!

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?Madeline-Lennon (10)

Be prepared to immerse yourself in all aspects of the program and take advantage of all the opportunities to practice Spanish that come your way. You will learn more Spanish here in one day of class than a week of classes in the States, better still; the classes are only a part of your day. You live with a Spanish family and have Spanish conversation partners, and it’s all in Spanish! It is practically impossible not to greatly improve your language comprehension.

 What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?

A genuine interest in doing a study abroad program and in learning Spanish. On a practical level, comfortable shoes for walking and a rain jacket. On an even more practical level I think less is more when packing, as you might want to pick up some stuff along the way and you’ll need the space to get everything back.

Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?

To be able to ‘take-away’ you have to also ‘eat-in’. Meaning, to really benefit, you have to give it your best, and really want to make it work. By doing this, students gain on all levels. Academically students obtain a major boost, a fast forward in their language capacity. On a personal level students ‘grow’ and gain more confidence, a better understanding of themselves and others, more insight the world and their relationship with it and their part in it. Study abroad is such a unique experience, something you have to do to really know what it’s like.Madeline-Lennon (9)

To learn more about study abroad programs offered in Spain, click here!

Katherine Larsen, a recent OSU graduate, interned with IE3 in Cape Town, South Africa during the summer of 2014 at the Cape Town Refugee Centre. Majoring in Human Development and Family Sciences through the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Katherine was able to help counsel and provide guidance to refugees in the small community of Observatory. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Social Work graduate degree from Portland State University and plans to focus her career on clinical social work with the intent to work abroad in the future. Read on to learn about the ups and downs of returning from a life-changing IE3 Global Internship

LARSEN- Katherine (1)

It has been a year since I have returned to the United States. I still cannot believe that my time abroad is over. As I reflect back on my 10-week internship at the Cape Town Refugee Centre, it feels as though time simply flew by, although I know that each day was packed with adventure. There are so many qualities that I have gained through this experience and I feel as though I have changed in a more than noticeable way. Not only do I feel more independent, I feel confident in myself as a person, a future social worker, and a community member. I have made an abundance of new relationships and now have global friendships that will last a lifetime. By consistently challenging myself to work diligently at the Cape Town Refugee Centre, I have gained valuable skills that will stay with me throughout my future career. Through volunteering and living within a new culture, I connected to the suburb Observatory and the city of Cape Town in an unexplainable way.LARSEN-Katherine (5)

 I learned an abundance of life lessons throughout this experience. I took time daily to reflect on my experiences, journal, and conduct continuous research regarding South Africa. One of my favorite pieces of reading I completed during my internship abroad was “After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa” by Douglas Foster. The biggest lesson I learned was that I cannot have control over all situations. This trip allowed me to be more spontaneous and to stop sweating the small things. My stress levels had never been so low! In addition to learning to go with the flow, I learned how to immerse myself deeply into a culture and adapt to the changes in lifestyle. My work as an intern at the Cape Town Refugee Centre taught me that everybody has a story and I will never learn that story if I judge a book by its cover. Opening myself up to experiences and simply listening during one-on-one conversations has massively shifted my opinion of others and has taught me to be more empathetic to those who aLARSEN - Katherine (2)re different than me. Furthermore, I have come to realize how much circumstance plays a role in an individual’s life. I worked with people in South Africa that have worked so hard to better their situation but were held back by many obstacles. Many people will continue to struggle throughout their lives, simply because of the family and geographic region they were born into. I will hold all of these realizations that I made during my global internship with me for the rest of my life.

Coming home and learning to adapt back to the United States’ way of life has been a challenge. One of the most frustrating parts of ending an internship abroad is my inability to explain in words what my experience was like. Friends and family have asked me to share what it was like and although I try my best, nothing comes close to what my summer actually was. Cape Town is a city unlike any other place I have ever been and it is hard to capture in words the beauty of the culture and the people. I especially miss walking to the train in the mornings and seeing Table Mountain hovering over the city. Regardless of my struggles adjusting, being home with my loved ones is wonderful.

Although my time in South Africa has come to an end, I know that I will return to the wonderful neighborhood of Observatory in the future. There is a quote on the streets of downtown Cape Town that holds so much truth: “I came here to change Cape Town, but Cape Town changed me.” I feel blessed to have had such a wonderful experience in the amazing country of South Africa. I left part of my heart in the city of Cape Town and I cannot wait to visit my second home again soon.

LARSEN - Katherine (7)

To learn more about the study abroad and international internships OSU offers, click here!