January-Term Experiences

January-Term Experiences

GSJ Mexico 2010: Women's Health Issues

“During my sophomore year I had the opportunity to study in Ireland for a semester. I absolutely loved having the chance to immerse myself in another culture and to learn more about the country I was living in. I love learning, and I felt that studying abroad was a great way to integrate both classroom and life lessons!”
— Anna Bruesewitz

Anna Bruesewitz is a junior at St. Kate’s majoring in pre-occupational therapy and will enter the occupational therapy program next year.

She studied abroad in Ireland during the fall semester of 2008 and Mexico during J-term 2010 for a GSJ course entitled: Women’s Health Issues. During her stay in Mexico she met with organizations that deal with local issues, carried water and wove baskets with indigenous women, and had a homestay experience.“Staying with a family definitely allowed us to see past just the surface of the country. We were able to learn not only about the problems, but about people and organizations who are working to solve those problems.”
For many students a J-term experience is very unique because they spend an expansive amount of time with the other students in their course. As a result, they develop close relationships with their classmates as well as their professors. “Travelling abroad with your professor gives you a whole different experience. Not only did you see them during class, you saw them at every meal. You got to know them really well and they got to know you better as both a student and a person.” In addition to the close relationships formed, students embark upon many experiences in a limited amount of time. For Anna, reflection after her experience abroad was a key component to understanding her studies and experiences better.
In theory, there are positives and negatives to all study abroad experiences. Being able to realize the differences between these and to challenge them are essential. At times you may feel uncomfortable, but it is important for you to understand why this is so. “Being tall and pale with red hair didn't exactly allow me to blend in during my trip to Mexico. The forwardness of the men was sometimes frustrating for me. However, realizing it was just a cultural difference made it easier to deal with.” There will also be things you wish you would have left or taken with you. Anna wishes she would have taken “more Spanish phrases, or a tiny interpreter to live in my pocket and help me out in a pinch.” However, do not underestimate your abilities to communicate in other ways. While in Mexico, Anna found some creative ways to express herself. “It was important to be really patient and try and pick up as many words as I could and fill in the rest, if necessary, by resorting to acting things out or miming. I used a nice combination of Spanglish, ASL, and charades.”
Overall, the best words of advice Anna can give are to: “Keep an open mind, take lots of pictures and take adequate time to reflect once you get home!”

J-term 2010: Health, Fitness, and Lifestyle Issues in Thailand

“Overall, I think any travelling experience helps you as a person. I am more culturally aware. Instead of just reading about cultures or looking at pictures in textbooks, I have a deeper connection. It helps you learn in a different way.”

— Jewelly Lee

Jewelly Lee is a double major in Women’s Studies and Sociology who studied in Thailand during the J-term of 2010. Jewelly decided to travel to Thailand for various reasons, perhaps most importantly, was the fact that her parents were from Thailand. It was a “big motivation to have connections with my parents and how they lived.”

Jewelly had many exciting opportunities to connect with the lives of Thai people. While there she visited temples, historical sites and an island, went trekking, went on an elephant ride, did relaxing aerobics, biked across the Thai landscapes, learned to cook Thai food and gave Thai massages.
Like any study abroad experience there were some difficulties that Jewelly faced not only as an American abroad but as an Asian abroad. People “were confused that I spoke English and I had to explain my own history to them.” Studying abroad will throw you many obstacles that you must face, but it is how you meet these challenges and overcome them that will prove the most important. Because of the challenges Jewelly faced, she gained a new perspective on life. “Being able to see a different culture, their view of happiness and success, changed my view. My perspective of poverty [also] changed.” She also developed an appreciation of their concept of time. They were “not worried about time, or having to be cautious with how they spent it. Time seemed to be one of the biggest differences there.”
Because Jewelly went on a short term study abroad experience, she stressed the importance of “[making] the most of it. Travel. Experience. Go out there and take risks.” You will face challenges and cultural barriers “go out there and challenge those. You will learn about yourself and why you feel uncomfortable.”