Students Perspectives – Studying Abroad

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As a study abroad returnee, I can honestly say that choosing to study abroad was one of the best decisions that I made during my undergraduate career here at UC Davis.

There are over 300 programs offered though UC Davis Quarter Abroad, UC Davis Summer Abroad, UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) and Independent Study Abroad. This blog will focus on the UC Davis Quarter Abroad and Summer Abroad programs. With so many programs offered, at first, the process of choosing a program may seem like a daunting task. It’s important to take the time to ask yourself why you want to study abroad and what you want to get out of the experience.

Below are a few fellow students’ perspectives on their study abroad experiences including why they chose to study abroad, reasons they picked their specific program, how their experience influenced the way that they see themselves/ the world and some of their favorite memories from their respective study abroad experiences.

UC Davis Quarter Abroad Programs:

Latinx Health Internship Program
Oaxaca, Mexico

IMG_5504Joanna Muñoz is a 5th year, Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior and Chicanx Studies double major. During Fall Quarter of 2016, Joanna studied abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico. In the future, Joanna aspires to apply to medical school and become a physician that provides care to underserved communities. Below is a outline of her experiences.
“I chose to study abroad because I wanted to experience something different. Being a student in STEM can be often be very overwhelming so I sought to enhance my studies outside of the science classes I was taking on campus.

I had heard a lot of positive feedback from my friends who were previously enrolled in the Latin(x) Health Internship Program in Oaxaca. The way they talked about their experience abroad made me want to do the same program. Like my friends, I am interested in pursuing medical school after my undergraduate career and I wanted to become more culturally competent. I was eager to learn about the prominent transnational health issues and participate in clinical rotations in not only the clinics, but also the hospitals of Oaxaca.

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My time abroad changed my life. Studying abroad in Mexico –the motherland of my parents– strengthened my dedication for my community. Seeing a physician raise awareness about important healthcare issues and then facilitating presentations myself, made me want to become an advocate for underserved communities. Being confused for a doctor and being addressed as Dra. while studying abroad has motivated me to persist until I make my M.D. a reality. Furthermore, learning about the health disparities between Mexico and the United States motivated me to learn more about the history of Mexican-Americans in the United States. As a result, this past Spring Quarter I declared a double major in Chicanx Studies.
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Some of my favorite memories include walking along the streets of Oaxaca, alongside my friends who are now like my second family, running into the oh so popular calendas (parades) in front of Santo Domingo (one of the main churches in Oaxaca City), going to the mercado (market) for some hot chocolate, being able to watch a natural birth and a cesarean section, and singing “Adios Mosquito” to a class of elementary school students in an effort to teach them about the tropical disease of dengue.”

Italian Language & Culture in Florence       Florence, Italy

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Carlotta Sainato is a 4th year Biotechnology and Italian double major. In the Fall of 2016, Carlotta studied abroad in Florence, Italy.

“I decided to study abroad because I had heard incredible stories from friends and other students who had studied abroad, either in the program that I did or other programs. I knew studying abroad would help me develop my language and conversational skills and help me really experience and integrate Italian culture into my life. Also, it was an opportunity to live in a completely different part of the world and visit other countries that I’d never seen. IMG_1051

I chose my program (Italian Language and Culture in Florence, Semester Abroad) because I had been taking Italian classes at UC Davis and discovered how much I enjoyed learning the language and culture. I am half Italian, so I have always had an Italian identity, but really delving into the classes helped me strengthen that. I knew going to Italy for a semester would help me connect with my roots in a completely unique way.

IMG_2175My experiences gave me a lot of insight into what other countries were like and their cultures. I definitely feel like I have barely scratched the surface in terms of learning about other countries, it has opened my eyes to how beautiful and rich they are in culture, and it has inspired me to travel more and explore the world as much as I can.

Some of my favorite memories from studying abroad were when I was traveling, both in and out of Italy. Visiting an old friend in Copenhagen, exploring the Roman forums, and roaming throughout the Parisian streets were just some of those incredible memories. A few of my favorite memories were also the amazing people I got to meet and get to know through my program.”

 

UC Davis Summer Abroad Programs:

Genetics – The Global Language of Biology Austria, Czech Republic, UK, Sweden

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Geoffrey Osgood is a 4th Year Animal Biology Major. In the summer of 2017, Geoffrey studied abroad in Austria, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and Sweden.

“I studied abroad because I wanted the opportunity to experience new cultures, make some new friends, and see what sort of options there were for a biology major outside of the United States.

I chose my particular program because it helped fulfill some of my major requirements, went to interesting countries, and went to multiple countries. Since my free time over the summer was limited, the last part turned out to be a major selling point because it allowed me to see a wide variety of cultures and locations in a short amount of time.

Studying abroad helped me learn that even though we might have cultural or language differences with other nations, at the end of the day we are really just people and have a lot more in common than it may first seem. It also helped foster a sense of self confidence because I saw that I could function by myself even when I didn’t know a language or was in unfamiliar surroundings.

There are so many fond memories I have of the trip, but I really enjoyed walking around the public gardens during the evening in Vienna, having a Great Hall dinner at Cambridge, and kayaking around Stockholm.”

Life Sciences
Kyoto, Japan

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Carrie Sun is a 4th year Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior major with a minor in Dramatic Arts. Carrie studied abroad in Kyoto, Japan during the Summer of 2016.

“My decision to study abroad primarily started with a Japanese travel food guide that my housemate had bought. They were  already enrolled in the Japanese summer abroad program! After glancing through the book once, I fell in love with the food and culture in Japan. At that moment, I was thinking wouldn’t it be great to travel and learn at the same time. As a result, I considered the summer abroad programs that were offered in Japan. Instantly, I found studying BIS 102 in Kyoto, Japan. I know this is going to be an amazing opportunity for me to go out and see the world.

There were two main reasons why I chose to study abroad in Kyoto, Japan. First,
BIS 102 was one of my major required classes to fulfill before I graduate.
Therefore, this would be an amazing opportunity to fulfill my upper division
requirements. Another reason was because of the food and culture in Kyoto, Japan.
Kyoto, within the Kansai area of Japan, is considered to be the capital of culture and tradition in Japan with so many different temples to explore. Carrie 3

The study abroad experience in Kyoto, Japan was phenomenal because not only was I able to explore the Japanese culture with my fellow classmates, but I was able to learn a lot from the Japanese students at Ritsumeikan University (private university in Kyoto, Japan where our classes were held). It was amazing how the thirty of us bonded within a few days into the program. Being abroad widened up my vision of the world. Often, we only vision the world through a single lens, either through television or the computer, but when you are physically there, you explore and learn from the environment around you. The world is full of different cultures, people, and background, so being able to be abroad for a month was an experience full of excitement. With this amazing study abroad experience, I am looking forward to traveling abroad to other countries.

Carrie 1.jpgSome of my favorite memories during the study abroad programs would have to be the field trips that we went on, the hangouts we had with the Ritsumeikan students, and the study sessions we had the day before the exams. One of my favorite field trips was when we had our first traditional Japanese bento box lunch. Within the bento box, there were a variety of different sashimi, vegetables, and mochi. Being able to try something new abroad was an amazing experience to gain. Next, one of my favorite hangouts with the Japanese students was when we went out for Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savory Pancake). Throughout dinner, we exchanged memorable stories and experiences we had in our lives as well as participated in cultural exchange. Lastly, the study sessions we had in our dorm before each exam was unforgettable. During each study session, the professor would come in with bags of Japanese snacks to feed our stomachs and, also feed our brains with all the information he wants us to remember. Being able to study together not only brought us closer, but also allowed us to ask questions whenever we were confused on a certain subject.”

Microbiology Lab in the Kingdom of Smiles                        Thailand

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Cathy Tang is a 4th Year Animal Science major. In the future, she aspires to apply to nursing school. During the Summer of 2017, Cathy studied abroad in Thailand.

“Studying abroad started as a fun idea then a couple weeks into the quarter, it became a goal of mine to accomplish. I decided I wanted to get out my comfort zone. I hadn’t gone overseas for about a decade and everyone that has been abroad said that it was the best college experience they had. Ultimately, I chose to do it because I wanted to have fun and experience a new culture but still be on track academically so studying Microbiology in Thailand was the perfect route for me.

IMG_5502The program itself was relevant to my present and future. While Microbiology is a required course, visiting Thailand has always been on my list of places to travel to. And not only is it a course needed to graduate for my undergraduate studies, Microbiology is a course required for many of the Nursing programs I desire to apply to in the future. I looked more into the program and what sparked my biggest interest in the program was the opportunity to learn hands on laboratory techniques. During the time of my decision making, I just got accepted into working at the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and thought if I take this course prior to working in the lab, I would be more experienced.

IMG_5499I became more open minded and relaxed after studying abroad. Being in a country where you can’t speak its native language, you have to ask questions in order to get stuff done thus I greatly improve my communication skills. I normally stress very easily and make a big deal out of my insignificant problems but after my experience abroad I realized how small my problems actually are. While I stressed over exams and deadlines, some individuals I met in Thailand wished they had schoolwork to stress about. I became more humble and grateful for the life I have and not take things for granted.

IMG_5501My favorite memories abroad were actually the moments where my friends and I faced problems. I enjoyed solving it together and getting home in one piece. There has been countless time where we would be hours away from home and no taxis would take us back. The novelty of everyday was also something I find myself missing after my trip. My friends and I made it a goal to do something new everyday whether it’d be trying a new food spot or heading into the city to visit Chinatown, etc. Once I came back to California, I noticed how much more open I was to trying new things and thus feel more motivated about life in general.”

Public Health & Rural/Urban Medicine
India

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Susie Leung is a 4th year Global Disease Biology and Environmental Science & Management double major. In the Summer 2017, Susie studied abroad in India.
“I chose to study abroad for a multiplicity of different reasons; personal development, learning a new culture, and education. I think the biggest factor that motivated me to study abroad was having the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture, where I could experience and pursue my goals of public health outside the scope of the U.S.

Growing up watching Bollywood films and movies I was only able to view India through one lens. It was either portrayed as extremely impoverished or affluent, but it never captured the true beauty and culture of the country. So, I chose to go to India to experience not only it’s many attractions, but also to experience its rich and diverse cultures.

After going to India, I have a deeper appreciation for all the things Americans generally take for granted such as working roads, running water, and functioning infrastructure. I remember when I visited the slums families with nothing would offer me everything. With that being said, India has influenced me to be more thankful, positive, and selfless.
My favorite memories of India was interestingly visiting the slums and rural communities. Their selflessness and happiness always seemed to touch and surprise me. Of course I also enjoyed visiting the beautiful temples and architectural feats, such as the Taj Mahal.”
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My Experience:

I am a 4th year Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior major with minors in Chicanx Studies and Spanish. I studied abroad in the Fall of 2017 in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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In the Fall of 2016, I participated in the Latinx Health Internship Program in Oaxaca, Mexico.

During my first year mandatory advising appointment, I discussed with my academic advisor at the Biology Academic Success Center about my wanting to study abroad. After we discussed some of my interests such as Public Health, Medicine, Health Disparities and Spanish language, my advisor recommended the Latinx Health Internship Program in Oaxaca.

During the 11 weeks in Mexico, I had the opportunity to take UC Davis classes on transnational (US-Mexico) health issues, Indigenous Healing and Biodiversity in Latin America, Latinx Health Issues, Medical Spanish Language classes and participate in 180 hours of clinical rotations primarily in governmental primary care clinics. The courses offered provided relevant cultural competencies trainings that are integral for future health care professionals.

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Our Altar and Tapete

There were so many fond memories that I have of Oaxaca. One of the highlights was definitely celebrating Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Our group constructed a traditional altar and also made a tapete to honor those that have passed away before us. We also had the opportunity to visit local cemeteries and experience some of the traditions that different families have.

I also had a wonderful time with my host family. When I first arrived in Mexico, I experienced culture shock. It was my first time in Mexico and all of my Spanish language speaking experiences had only been in the academic setting. At first, I struggled with everyday, casual language. My host family created such a welcoming environment for me and would always correct my Spanish every time I made mistakes. I really valued this because it really helped me to improve my Spanish to a more conversational level.

IMG_3309I am also eternally grateful to the professors, Dra. Adela de la Torre, Dra. Yvette Flores and Dra. Queta Valdez for their guidance and support throughout the program as well as for all the friendships that I made with others on my program. Boarding my flight to Mexico, I was nervous because I did not know anyone on the program. This quickly went away at orientation and bonds and friendships were quickly formed. I think of many of the people that I met on my program to be some of my closest friends and while in Oaxaca, they became my second family. This experience that we all share is something that, even one year later, we talk about every time we see each other.

I hope that this blog gives you a better idea about study abroad as well as a more in-depth glimpse into some of the study abroad programs that UC Davis offers! Below are some links to different resources that can help answer some questions that you may have!

Studying Abroad Programs for Biological and Health Sciences

Misconceptions about Studying Abroad as a Biological Sciences Student

Grant Tominaga
BASC Peer Adviser
4th Year Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior Major

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