Why did you decide to study abroad?
Ever since orientation at the University of San Diego, they've stressed how much they support and encourage students studying abroad. I've always known I wanted to study abroad after hearing so much about it during orientation and hearing about how common it is for students to study abroad. I knew that USD had a campus in Madrid, and was always set studying abroad there. One day, on the tram, I spoke with the girl sitting next to me who was a senior and asked her after 4 years at USD what was one thing she would recommend to a freshman like me to do before I graduate, and she told me to go on Semester at Sea. She told me that I would make life long friendships (friends who would be in my wedding type of friends) and that it would change who I am and the way I see the world. It would be better to go to 10 countries during one semester than only one. After going through the experience, I know exactly what she's talking about.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
Attending USD really helped me go to Semester at Sea. Since USD has a direct billing program where the study abroad program bills USD and we pay USD tuition as per a usual semester, my USD grants and scholarships remained the same as if I hadn't left.
I continue to pay the usual student loans I have at USD about $4,000 a semester, but received a scholarship from Diversity Abroad for $5,000 and a pell grant match from Semester at Sea. In addition, I raised money from working over the summer to help pay for my personal expenses while abroad.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
I wish that I had done more research on all of the countries I was visiting so that I would be more educated on their culture, their history, and perhaps the current economic or political crisis' that they face. This was something that my camel guide in the Sahara actually brought to my attention. If you're not educated about the country that you're visiting, you can be viewed as ignorant and it could be a barrier from a more authentic experience with the locals.
I also wish that I had taken more photos and especially videos, so that I would be able to look back on all of my memories and be able to engage all of my senses as I look back--see, touch, feel, hear, and smell.
Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
I am multi-racial--Filipino and White--American, female, Catholic and Heterosexual. Often times in ports, such as Senegal in West Africa, when we get off of the ship the locals and the street vendors assume that we are rich Americans and harass us to buy their products. One time, as me and my friends were walking down the street, a group of men followed us (pretending to be our guides so that we would have to pay them later) and so one of my male friends told them we didn't need their help, they called us racist Americans. This is only one example, but we learned how much other countries know about the United States and the single stories of how people from the United States are stupid or racists come a lot from the Media. In addition, often times in countries where women don't have equal power as men, as a woman I was ignored and needed a man to tell someone something for me in countries such as Morocco or Senegal. I learned how women don't have the same role as men in much of the world, and we still live in a patriarchal society. As a Catholic, most countries I visited were also majority Catholic--such as Italy, Spain, and all of Latin America. However, in Morocco and Senegal, which have a big population of Islamic faith, I had to learn how to respect their faith and even wear a hijab in certain places I visited.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
Through my experiences I've learned how to be cross-culturally sensitive, to be aware of single-stories, and to avoid being ethnocentric. In addition, I've learned how odd it is that all of the world knows so much about what's going on in the US but most people in the US have no idea what's going on in the world, such as how they know who our president is but we don't know theirs. I've learned how not to have high expectations and how to think on my feet. I've learned how to communicate with people, while having a language barrier or by being more fluent in my Spanish speaking. Personally, I sought out to learn about the world but in the end I not only learned about the world but also about myself. I learned about the things that truly make me happy, what's really important, and how to not worry about the small things. I learned how much I enjoy to impact a community, and hope that I can bring this back to my own community by interning for a city council member or a state assemblyman.
I learned so many things that has benefited me academically. In my religion class I learned about the impact Colonialism has had on religion to this day and the way that religion influences each society, and the syncretism that globalization has forced on religion. In my Comparative Economic Systems class, I learned that while Capitalism is working in the West, many of the "developing countries" are locked out because they are missing certain elements, and these certain elements are usually present but are very informal. In many of the countries we visited, I was able to see and ask locals about the informal economic system--such as informal selling from street vendors on the street or informal property rights. In my Issues in Tourism class, I learned a lot about how important Tourism is as an economic sector for so many countries around the world--and because of how fast it is growing I learned how critical it is as tourists to be sustainable and responsible. In my Buyer Behavior Class, I learned about what motivates consumers and their purchases, and how each segment of each country differs--such as how many Latin Americans are brand conscious because it signifies their social status, or how the way a mother shops daily signifies her role as a homemaker. I learned about Globalization and Intercultural Communication--what it means to be a global citizen during the voyage and after the voyage is over. I learned about Global Climate Change--from the impacts of deforestation to polar ice caps, I learned about Modern Day Slavery and how the coffee we drink or chocolate we eat often times is part of child slavery in Africa or Latin America, I learned about Women's Rights and the movements against Domestic Violence in Peru.