Karin in Madagascar
Karin Bucht at Isalo National Park in Madagascar

Karin Bucht, Environmental Science and International Studies Degrees, is spending Fall 2010 on an SIT study abroad program on biodiversity in Madagascar.  The following is an excerpt from her own blog.

So I’m back in Antananarivo, the capital for the next week. Since Tulear; we road tripped through Madagascar, visiting several different Parks and protected areas. The first place we stopped was Isalo National Park, which was incredible, even though a large portion had been burned several weeks before by an out of control brush fire.  The rocks and the views were incredible.

Our second stop along our roadtrip was Anjy, which is a community managed protected area. The best thing about Anjy, we found out the next morning. First off, while waiting for breakfast; a group of ringtail lemurs came and passed by our campsite. Later that morning we did a circuit tour where we learned that the lemurs passing by our campsite was just the beginning of our lemur experience. According to our guides, about 400 ringtails live in Anjy, in

Lemurs at Anjy

groups of about 20. Being a community managed protected area, the lemurs here have never been hunted by locals and are very accustomed to humans. So when we did our circuit tour, we found ourselves in the midst of a group, with lemurs passing overhead. The hike also included some great views, but the lemurs were definitely the highlight. It seems pretty incredible to find lemurs here more approachable than they were at a private reserve (called Berenty) that we visited in the south. I’m still in Tana now, enjoying a reasonably fast cybercafé and getting lots of practice with the french keyboard. Veloma!

group shot in Isalo
Karin and her SIT classmates at Isalo National Park

Heather Hodnett graduated from OSU in Spring 2010 in Exercise and Sports Sciences. She went to India in Spring ’08 through the IE3 Global Internship Program, and spent ten weeks as a Child Family Health International intern, visiting various cities and villages in India to gain professional medical experiences.

Two years ago today, I was finishing the last week of my IE3 internship in northern India.  I think about it often enough that it may have ended just two days ago.

I expected to reflect upon my IE3 experience directly after my return and for years to come, but my reflection has been deeper than I initially imagined.  In fact, I chose to write my University Honors College (UHC) thesis based on my IE3 internship, and therefore, these past few months have been a time of sustained and obligatory – though welcome and insightful – reflection.

My days in India consisted mainly of observation in various types of medical clinics and public health facilities scattered throughout the northern region.  I knew before I left Oregon that I would likely use some facet of my experience as the foundation for my thesis, so I took handwritten and mental notes each day and typed them into my computer journal each night.  Despite my acute awareness of my daily observations and experiences, it still took me quite a bit of time after returning from India to actually figure out what aspect of my internship I wanted to focus on for my thesis.

I noticed countless differences between  the healthcare system in India and the US; some ways which seemed safer and more sensible and some which seemed less.  As expected, I also noticed how the greater Indian society influenced the practice of medicine and the health outcomes within the northern region.  This became the basis for my thesis: The Medical Culture of Northern India: A Visitor’s Perspective.

My research for the thesis was two-fold: anecdotal research based on the things I saw and did during my days in India, and literature research to validate and enhance my observations.  This literature research opened my eyes to so many facets of Indian life and the culture of healthcare that I did not even pick up on during my ten weeks living there.  It is hard to imagine I missed so much of the daily happenings while I was living and working in the middle of them, but I never would have made this realization had I not done some exploration upon my return.  My experience ignited a flame of interest and curiosity that I took the time and energy to really investigate.  Having done so, I now understand so much more about what I saw and why things happened the ways they did.

If there is one thing I discovered by writing my thesis based on my IE3 internship, it is that my education about India and the country’s healthcare system did not stop when I got on the plane to leave.  Nor should it have.  My advice to past, current, and future IE3 interns is to keep up on happenings in the internship country, actively learn more about the country upon return, and apply the new information to memories of the actual internship.

Above all else, I learned through this process just how much more there is to learn.  I urge IE3 interns not to let the experience and the education end just because the internship ends.  The reflection process should be a lifelong one – after all, (I’m sure most IE3 interns agree) the IE3 experience is a life-changing one.

Matt Jager, BA in Music, BA in International Studies, 2009
Matt Jager, BA in Music, BA in International Studies, 2009

Matt studied at the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador for a year, and then returned the following Christmas for a special research project.  His goal?  To listen to and be inspired by the sounds of Ecuador.

I have always been interested in a diverse range of topics.  When I came to college I had difficulty choosing a degree, because I did not want to limit myself by choosing just one field of study.  After a lot of soul searching, I finally decided to study music, a longtime love of mine.  However, I still wanted my education to have a global scope.  I needed to be able to learn the technical aspects of music, but I thought it equally necessary to be cognizant of the worldwide issues that are dramatically shaping the world that we live in.  Fortunately I found the International Degree, which allowed me to expand the reach of my studies.  Through my thesis project, a soundscape composition exploring Ecuadorian culture through its sound environment, I was given the opportunity to utilize what I had learned in music to explore themes such as globalization, modernization, intercultural interaction, sociopolitical disparities, and other prominent issues.  The whole experience, from studying abroad, to the research, to the writing and composing, turned out to be profoundly moving.  I can easily say that my international experience has been one of most beneficial aspects of my education.

I’m not a dancer. This isn’t an attempt to solicit a compliment or to lower social expectations if the event should arise that I must dance in front of others; it is just a simple fact. It is not even a question of ability; I just don’t feel comfortable dancing and find it mentally difficult to understand how others can boogie the night away in a rhythmic euphoria of steps, moves, and gyrations. At least that was my mindset in the U.S.Katie Parker Climbing in Chile, Spring 2009

We have all heard the stereotype that all Latin American people, especially women, can dance. While I had several interesting conversations about this with my Chilean friends (it is not true and quite offensive, so don’t spread that nasty generalization), I did find that music is more present in Chilean culture, and it is more common to dance at parties and social functions than in the United States. This cultural propensity for expressive movement made me a bit nervous the first time I was dragged (literally, we are talking about a fear of dancing that I have here, people) to a club in Santiago. Would I be expected to know some crazy American steps? Would any one dance with me? Would others publicly scorn me and make a wide circle of nightclub shame around the gringa? As we can see, some of these fears were slightly paranoid and hyperbolized, but needless to say, I was more than a little apprehensive when walking into the warehouse/reggaeton club.

After all that fear, I was pleasantly surprised that not only does my body actually move in ways that could be called dancing, but that I actually enjoyed it. My previous dreadful experiences of preschool dance class (I lasted one day before I asked my mother not to take me back), school dances, and choreographed numbers for drama productions were erased as I swayed with the hundred other youths to heavy bass beats. Not everyone there could have auditioned for a music video, but it was more the willingness to move to the music that was appreciated and welcomed. The atmosphere was more low-pressure and inclusive than my other dance moments. Not only that, but I was asked to dance, or at least I ended up dancing with a very nice boy, as the formal asking didn’t seem part of Santiago club culture.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I turned into a major clubber or that I now plan on dedicating my life to interpreting all emotion through dance, but I appreciate more the social role that dance plays in bringing people together. Although I still wouldn’t list dancing as my favorite activity, I now fear it less. Study abroad is above all a chance to stretch your limits, and I can proudly say that I stretched quite a lot. I’ll even dance in the United States now, a little bit, maybe, when no one is looking.

Katie Parker, Junior in History and University Honors College, studied through CIEE in Santiago, Chile for Winter/Spring 2009.