Toni Pringley presents on her experience to other students.
Alyssa Claymiller holds a flag from Santo Domingo.

“We started to learn about the culture through essays and other projects, but I didn’t know any of the other students in the group before the class,” she recounted. “We started to get to know each other, which was nice. It made it an easier transition, because you’re with people for two weeks.”

Claymiller, who learned of the program through weekly emails she receives as part of IU Bloomington’s 21st Century Scholars Program, cites the cultural aspect of visiting the island nation as the most poignant part of her trip.

“We went to a lot of places, and that’s what I liked about the program. A lot of students in study-abroad programs say they stayed in one city. We went to Santo Domingo, which is the capitol, Santiago, the second-largest city in the country, and several smaller villages. We were mostly in the cities, but we would also take day trips to other places,” said Claymiller, an exercise science major with plans to attend optometry school.

“One of the best memories I have from the trip was visiting a museum in Santiago. We learned that the Dominican society doesn’t always reflect on their African heritage, even though something like 90 percent of the population can trace their ancestry back to Africa. That was one moment that really stuck with me.

“A lot of people, when they heard I was going to the Dominican Republic, they just thought I would be going to the beach. But that’s not what the program was about. It was more about learning about the culture, which was my favorite part of the trip.”

The program just teaches you things in ways that you won’t understand until you experience it. Going there sparked a desire in me to study abroad more.

Sophomore, Alyssa Claymiller

Ochmaa Escue, director of OVPDEMA’s Overseas Studies and Scholarship Program, explained that the type of experience Claymiller had is exactly what OVPDEMA intended when the Overseas Studies and Scholarship Program began.

“Our vision is to be able to afford students who don’t traditionally have the opportunity to travel and study internationally the chance to do so, then return to campus and their communities with greater knowledge of other cultures and an enhanced perspective of the world,” said Escue.

“The OVPDEMA Study Abroad Fair was a great way to increase the awareness of the Overseas Studies and Scholarship Program. I like the fact that it brought students of all backgrounds together, and that there was a genuine air of excitement as they learned about the program from our campus partners and through the experiences of their fellow students.”

“Landing there and seeing how different the airport was really opened my eyes to how different things are in Ghana in comparison to here. Then, spending so many long hours in the van while traveling different places really brought us together. But I think our favorite stop was Cape Coast. It was so beautiful,” she continued.

“Sometimes, especially in Accra, it looked very Americanized. You couldn’t even tell you were in a different country. But in places like Kumasi and on the way to Cape Coast, it was very apparent that it was very different.”

Pringley’s journey has turned her into an advocate among her fellow IU students, encouraging them to see the world.

“OVPDEMA’s motivation is to give underrepresented minorities and other students the chance to experience life overseas at an affordable cost, so it puts us in a position to succeed and do something outside of the norm. I really hope I get chosen to go to India,” said Pringley, mentioning an upcoming trip through the program.

“A lot of people that I talk to say they aren’t trying to leave the country because they don’t know anything about life abroad, but I tell them it’s affordable and it’s awesome.”

Claymiller concurred, referencing the fact that she never thought she’d have the chance to travel internationally.

Students gather information at a table during the OVPDEMA Study Abroad Fair.

“As a 21st Century Scholar, I didn’t know that it would be financially possible to go abroad, but it happened through my OVPDEMA scholarship,” said Claymiller.

“The program just teaches you things in ways that you won’t understand until you experience it. Going there sparked a desire in me to study abroad more. I recently found out that I’m going to Australia next semester. With the right scholarships—if you’re willing to put in the time to apply for them—you can definitely make it possible. It sounds cliché, but it can change your ideas.”