Since middle school I have been intrigued by the idea of living and working abroad, and now, more than 10 years later, I am about to live out this dream for two months in Santiago, Chile! I remember around the age of 12 when my curiosity about the world around me was ignited as I became extremely interested in my social studies and current events classes. Because I grew up in a very exclusionary community- a very constrained church and school organization- my exposure to the world around me was limited. Because I grew up in a large and low income family, extravagant or long distance vacations were not economically feasible. Even the prospect of attending college was doubtful, and so participating in a conventional college study abroad program was not expected although it was a high aspiration.
After completing high school I began to pursue my dream of traveling and engaging with new people and places. I joined AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC)- a ten month national community service program. While in NCCC I traveled around the US doing various disaster mitigation and response work. During this time I worked with a team of 10 people from all over the country and did projects in states from Iowa, to Alabama, and Texas to New Jersey- when responding to Hurricane Sandy. I was well on my way to exploring the world as I had long hoped, but the norms of American society became repetitive. My eagerness to get abroad and embrace entirely new environments, cultural norms, and languages had only grown stronger by the time I completed AmeriCorps.
When I started college I felt sure that my study abroad experience was nearing. I spent two years at a community college before transferring to Swarthmore College as a junior. Unfortunately, after transitioning I learned that a graduation requirement entailed spending at least 4 semesters on campus, which was the total amount of time that I had remaining in undergrad! I realized I would not be studying abroad in undergrad. This was concerning since making the time and finding the opportunities to travel abroad, by many measures, could be more difficult after graduating undergrad, when I would be mired in long-term professional career work. But then there was IES, which has made this experience possible even after finishing undergrad!
I am very excited as I prepare to begin this journey. I am ecstatic to solidify my Spanish language fluency, as well as my cultural fluency and understanding. It’s really been a long time coming; even my arrival date for my IES internship has been delayed so that I will be able to attend my undergraduate graduation on May 21. But after that, I am living the dream and am thrilled to make the most of it!