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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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

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Alison Blazer is an International Ambassador for the International Degree and Education Abroad office. Alison is studying Speech Communication and Spanish. During fall 2012, Alison studied abroad at Universidad de Bío Bío in Chillán, Chile through OSU.

Alison Blazer - OSU Chilian, Chile F'12 (3)Last fall term, I studied abroad in Chillán, Chile for four months. This program is OSU specific and gives Oregon State students the opportunity to travel with fellow Beavers and complete the entire second year of Spanish language courses in just 3 months. I had an incredible experience living in a new country, immersing myself in a new language and culture, bonding with my host family and classmates, and learning about myself. Throughout my time in Chile, there were several unforgettable adventures, but the most memorable of all was my emergency surgery.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I was experiencing a lot of stomach pain. The pain became so bad that I could do very little other than sit in bed, so I talked to my program director, my mom and host mom- all of whom thought it was probably appendicitis, but hoped it was something different. When I finally conceded that I had to go to the doctor, my program director immediately put a plan into action.

Less than an hour later, I was in the clinic with my Chilean grandma and a close friend of my program director. My program director was unfortunately in Santiago (about 4 hours north) for the weekend and feeling just about as helpless as my mom back in California. There was an hour and a half wait at the clinic, but luckily a surgeon friend of the program director met us outside and saw me immediately.

Alison Blazer - OSU Chilian, Chile F'12 (6)I saw the doctor at 5 p.m. and was scheduled to have surgery at 6:30 p.m. The next hour was filled with me frantically trying to get a hold of my parents in the states and figuring out what the nurses were asking me in Spanish. My dad had taken off for a fishing excursion in Shasta before knowing about my operation, so my mom and younger sister were left alone to worry. Thank God for Skype!

A few of my closest friends in my program came to the clinic as soon as they heard the news, and my host parents rushed back to Chillán from a neighboring town where they had been at a barbeque. Luckily everyone got there before I had to go into surgery. They were so incredible; helping to connect with my family back home, distracting me while the nurse put my IV in, and asked me what I needed from my house.Alison Blazer - OSU Chilian, Chile F'12 (4)

A little after 6:30, I was wheeled into the operating room with my Chilean host parents saying that they’d wait there for me and not to worry. In the operating room, I was moved to the operating table and then came the worst part…..spinal anesthesia. I’ve been under anesthesia before- once for an eye surgery when I was nine years old and again briefly for my wisdom teeth removal, but never in a million years did I think that I would be receiving spinal anesthesia. So picture this: I’m sitting in the OR with a team of about 10 people (surgeons, surgical nurses, the anesthesiologist etc.) all of whom are speaking Spanish and I get told that they’re going to stick a needle in my spine with no prior wooziness or drugs coming my way. Safe to say it was one of the scariest moments of my life. They kept telling me not to worry. I tried to explain in Spanish that I wasn’t worried about the surgery. It would be a piece of cake. My problem was the fact that they were about to stick a needle into my spine. But hey, what can you do? After the piercing pain of the injection, my feet immediately got super-hot and went numb and that sensation continued up my legs until I couldn’t feel anything below my chest. The nurses put a curtain up separating my head from the rest of my body and I was immediately concerned that they weren’t going to put me to sleep.

About an hour later, I woke up in the recovery room, unable to move my legs and extremely woozy. I was filled with relief- I had made it through surgery in South America, thank God! Not being able to move my legs was an unpleasant experience, but my nurses in recovery were so nice and asked me how I was doing each time I managed to wake up for a few moments before falling back asleep. This went on for about two more hours until I was finally taken back up to my room and immediately greeted by my Chilean parents.

Alison Blazer - OSU Chilian, Chile F'12 (5)After that, I spent a couple nights in the clinic to be monitored and get medicated via an IV. My host parents, my program director and my friends all sat by my bedside in shifts over the next few days until I was released and able to go home. The main priority at the time was just to fully recover—I was planning on traveling to Peru to see Machu Picchu one month after surgery. If that goal was to be reached, I would really need to lay low and recover at my own pace.

It’s safe to say that I never thought I would have surgery without my parents present, let alone in a different country. I owe so much to my program director, my amazing classmates and my fantastic host family who were all there for me 100% of the way. They pulled strings to get me to see a doctor quickly, sat by my bed before and after surgery, and told me not to worry. It’s fascinating to me that even when sleeping alone in a Chilean hospital, I felt comfortable and sure that I was receiving the best care possible.

I truly believe that there is no better way to learn about oneself and your own strengths and abilities than traveling abroad.  Any experience abroad is bound to provide students with a new global perspective and the ability to grow and learn at a new rate by constantly challenging oneself. Personally, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gone to Chile in the first place and now each and every day I think about my experience, my health and the amazing support system I have here as well as below the equator.

Natasha Badaa is a senior at Oregon State University. She is studying Business Management and French. During Fall 2012, Natasha studied abroad at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France through API.

During my study abroad experience in Grenoble, France, I had one goal: do something every day that scares me. Although I was a thousand miles away from what I called home, I dared myself to go outside my comfort zone in a foreign country and a foreign language. One of my favorite memories related to achieving my goal happened during a weekend trip to Marseilles, France with my friends. Marseilles is famous for the Calanques, which are a beautiful set of cliffs that extend off the coast. Tourists travel from near and far to hike the cliffs down to the Mediterranean Sea and swim in the private lagoons. My friends and I traveled by bus to the trailhead and hiked for over an hour to this unbelievable swimming spot surrounded by cliffs. There was something special about this place we found in the Calanques in the south of France. It was a place to escape from reality and immerse ourselves in the scenery of the rocks and sea. Climb one of the cliffs and perch up there for a while. Admire the humbling view. You’ll quickly see what I mean. The view extended for miles and miles above the clear, aquamarine water.

Tourists lined the rocks, jumping off one by one into the sea. Terrified of the prospect, I was determined to try it anyways. My friends and I climbed a huge cliff that was nearly 15 meters tall. I was shaking with the fear of slipping and falling. Frozen in this fear, I perched on the rock and refused to jump. It was not until my friend climbed back up and convinced me that I could do this. She reminded me about how great it would feel to accomplish something I was afraid of. Together we jumped off that cliff, together into the deep blue water.

My time abroad meant conquering fears and accomplishing goals that I never dreamed were possible. In five months, I traveled to new countries, became fluent in a language, hiked mountains in the Alps and jumped off cliffs in the Mediterranean Sea. I made friends with locals, went wine tasting in the south of France, and learned more about myself than expected. Studying abroad has changed my life in more ways than I could have predicted. I learned independence and confidence. I learned culture, American and otherwise. My biggest piece of advice to anyone who wants to study abroad is this: do not hesitate about anything. Be brave and jump off cliffs.

Denise Risdon is a senior at Oregon State University, studying Anthropology and History. Currently, Denise is interning for Heritage Malta in Malta through IE3 Global Internships for six months. Below, Denise provides an update of her time abroad. (This blog was originally posted on the IE3 Field Note page).

After having some time to settle in to my host country of Malta, I have absolutely fallen in love with it. This little island is truly a hidden gem in the Mediterranean. The beauty can be found everywhere in this country, especially in the people, the architecture, the gardens and harbors. The capital city of Valletta is like an open air museum, full of history at every corner. It is this history that has brought me to Malta. I am interning with Heritage Malta, the National Agency for cultural heritage. I am placed at the National Archaeological Museum which is situated right in Valletta. At the museum, I am working in the section for Phoenician, Roman and Medieval archaeology and I could not ask for better curators in this department.

The work I have been doing is interesting. Before I learned of this internship, I must admit that I had little knowledge of this tiny little island and since my arrival I have basically had a giant history lesson on the entire country. The most exciting project I have been working on has been excavating the Roman Baths at Ghajn Tuffieha, which is located on the western side of the country next to two of Malta’s nicest beaches. This site is presumed to be dated from 50 – 100 AD and it was discovered in about 1929.

The site has been closed to the public due to the excavations going on. I feel enormously privileged to be working on a site like this. I have had the opportunity to take part in preserving history for future generations. The site consists of a number of rooms and many of them contained intricate geometrical patterned floor tiles made of marbles and stone. Sadly, the site is in pretty bad shape, and needs serious work, but I am proud to be a part of this project.

I never thought that I would actually be able to work doing my dream job, but here I am, on the other side of the world, loving every moment of my adventure. Unlike most interns, I will be staying here in Malta for six months and I will be able to really see what life is like in this amazing little place. I will be able to dive deeper into this culture and embrace it. I await any opportunity that comes my way with an open mind and a smile.

Photo by Kristen Mahoney
Photo by Kristen Mahoney

Who are you and why do you want to go?

Most study abroad programs require application essays.  These essays typically serve as proof that you can form cogent sentences and have put some thought into your decision to apply for an international experience.  Give the program staff a chance to get to know you and impress your host institution with thoughtful, well-crafted essays.

  1. You might think your life is boring, but you still need to introduce yourself in an engaging and compelling way.  The “tell us about yourself” essay can be the hardest one to write, especially if you think that by going abroad, your life is just beginning. When writing your biography, you don’t need to worry as much about the historical facts as the essential factors that made you who you are.  Even if you spent 18 uneventful years living in a functional household surrounded by picket fences and puppies, there are still lots of factors that affected your choice of major and your intellectual and personal interests.  Focus on the things that affected you intellectually, like favorite books, important classes, or skills that you’ve learned.  Share your interests and hobbies…a dedication to a sport or craft says a lot about your passions and personality.
  2. The flipside to “my life is too boring” is “my life is too full of drama.” We have become a culture of over-sharers.  While an illness or difficult family situation may have been the most formative experience of your life, it is important to convey this information in a clear and dispassionate manner.  Remember that your program acceptance is never based on health or disability status; you will have an opportunity to disclose this later in the application process. If you choose to disclose a family tragedy or hardship in your essay, keep the facts brief and clear without going into tawdry detail or not maintaining your privacy. Focus instead on how you developed from the experience.  Restraint demonstrates maturity and keeps the focus on your abilities rather than your soap opera.
  3. Writing about your goals. Most study abroad essays will require that you describe “why you want to participate on the program.” The following answers are not sufficient: “it would be really cool;” “I’ve always wanted to date someone with a ___ accent;” and “I just want to go somewhere.”  This is the time to reflect on why your destination piqued your interest…was it the music, the culture, the food, the history?  What kinds of classes are you hoping to take and how will they fit in with your degree progress? Do you have personal goals of gaining intercultural skills or travel? Sharing these ideas lets your program advisors know that you’re putting thought into your decision and you will be willing to prepare for your adventure.
  4. Writing about transitions. Many programs require an essay to discuss how you have transitioned in life.  This is a great indicator of how well you will do when you arrive in a completely new destination, need to use a new language, and navigate a new system.  If you haven’t had a lot of life transition, talk about the transition to college or learning how to be successful in a new job or activity. Describe how you have been willing to try new things and be flexible and how you keep school and life balanced.  If you’ve had difficulty transitioning, talk about your lessons learned and the tools you have to transition in the future.
  5. Remember to keep your essays in your own authentic voice while deploying proper usage and good grammar.  Double check the spelling for the places you’re applying for…a Welsh university would cringe at receiving an application for your “Study Abroad in Whales.” You don’t have to sound stilted; the essay should sound like it is coming from a college student with a real life and real goals. Have a trusted proof-reader take a look at your essay, or take it to the Writing Center on campus for feedback.
  6. Save a copy of those essays.  They may provide the foundation for a scholarship essay or application an in the future.
photo by Jocelyn Hepner, on holiday in Paris
photo by Jocelyn Hepner

Students often ask us, “Where should I go?  What would you choose?”  While we can’t choose the program for you, we’re here to help find one that best suits your needs and meets your goals.  Here are some questions to consider when making the decision about which program to apply for.

Do I want to learn or be exposed to another language? Is my language level high enough to take college-level courses in the language or do I need to take electives in English?

Do I want to be on a program where I live with host country nationals, either in a dorm or homestay family?

Do I want access to classes and student life at a university or would I prefer to be with American students?

Big city? Medium-sized city? Middle of nowhere?

What are my budget constraints? Can I realistically rely on financial aid? What will the total costs of the program be?

Do I want a program that will allow me to earn credit toward my major or minor? Do I want to focus on bacc core requirements? Am I interested in earning language credit?

What kind of support do I want to have on site? Do I want to tap into campus and other local resources? Is it important to have a resident director specifically for my program or am I independent enough to work directly with the international students office on campus?

Read through the program materials, seek out impressions of former students, and check out a guidebook.  Try to imagine your life in that environment, and if you like what you see, you’re on the right track.