Summer 2008: GSJ India
“Everyone is connected globally. Everything we do affects others around the world.”
— Laura Matthees
Laura Matthees, a graduate student of Holistic Health, has always had an interest in India and human rights. For her degree, she had just taken a class about the connections between the mind, body and spirit, so the GSJ to India, entitled Spiritual Voices of Dissent, fit perfectly with her interests.
Laura describes India as a very visual culture where everything feels more revealed than in the United States, especially in terms of the acceptance of poverty. It is a much more open society than most Americans are used to, and Laura states that, “India puts everything on the table and says, ‘This is what we’ve got!’”. The highlight of her journey was visiting the Lakshmi Ashram, a school for girls that specialized in Gandhi’s teachings. The students from St. Kate’s were able to connect and communicate with the girls despite the language barrier. She especially enjoyed being able to work alongside the girls, gardening and picking the vegetables they were going to prepare for lunch.
Before leaving for India, Laura hoped she would come back enlightened, but once there realized that the enlightenment she had in mind was a western romanticized idea. Laura did, however, come back with a new awareness. She realized that most Americans do not understand how much garbage they produce and how easy it is to recycle. Being in a place that is so far from the United States and American culture made her realize how disconnected Americans are from their surroundings, both immediate and international.
CIEE Dominican Republic, Summer 2009
"[Don't] get too homesick. Enjoy the time that you are there because your family will be there when you get back."
— Erica Zowghi
Erica Zowghi is double majoring in Nursing and Spanish. Fitting in a study abroad experience as a Nursing major can be difficult at times, but Erica has proven it is not impossible! Last summer, Erica spent 7 weeks in the Dominican Republic through CIEE and she has also travelled during J-term of 2010 to India for the class Global Search for Justice. During Erica’s seven weeks in the Dominican Republic she stayed with a host family who she is still in contact with to this day. She also spent 3 weeks taking classes at a university. While there she studied health topics and later taught about these health issues on the side of a road to women. She promoted health teaching in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Santiago, spent a week in a rural clinic, and took many side-trips including one to the Mirabel Sisters’ museum where she met one of the surviving sisters. The program was a perfect fit for her because the classes were geared not only to her nursing major, but her Spanish major as well.
Overall, what she gained was the ability to be more open minded and learned about how people view Americans. She also became more aware of the difficulty that other countries can face and the many advantages that our health care system has that we take for granted. “We grew up not having to worry about Malaria or Dengue Fever whereas this is a constant problem Dominicans face.” There were some differences and challenges that Erica had to face, but overall, the reward of overcoming these challenges was worth it. “Things like that happen, but you get through them. It’s scary when it happens, but you can’t live your life in fear.” There will be some harder times, but the important thing is “not to get too homesick. Enjoy the time that you are there because your family will be there when you get back.”