Calderon: I studied abroad for a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was amazing. I was really lucky and got the OVPDEMA and Hutton Honors College scholarship, so I got the whole program paid for and basically went there for free. It was just a completely different environment. We had oral final exams, so I had to learn a whole different way of studying. I really hated public speaking, but after those exams, I did presentations for the Study Abroad office and I’m super comfortable with public speaking. The people were just so open-minded.
Everyone there knew so much about American politics that they expected you to have an opinion, so I feel like it forced me to get out of my shell and get more involved with my community here. I did a service-learning class, so I went to a forest preschool once a week. We cooked food on a fire and kids were climbing trees. We have helicopter parenting and over there, they’re the complete opposite. It was just a different atmosphere.
India was a completely different experience. Going to Copenhagen, I was doing it on my own. With OVPDEMA, it was a group and we were going with professors, but it was a different atmosphere because it was a third-world country. I got to see things that definitely made me more appreciative of what I have. The trip to India was just so eye-opening. It was interesting because it was a completely different culture. We got to see the burials in the river. They have a different perception of death and afterlife. It was also great to visit universities and meet other college students, so we could compare their experiences to ours, like women in India getting an education compared to women in the U.S. It was cool that in our course prior to the trip, we got to talk about it, then we got to experience it.
Nelson: I studied abroad through SPEA going into my junior year. I went to Dublin, Ireland and London, England. I went to Berlin, Germany for spring break. OVPDEMA had financial support for students who are part of 21st Century and Groups. I went to an OVPDEMA event, heard about their opportunities, and put my name in a listserv to learn more. It encouraged first-generation college students and other populations to study abroad over the summer, because their academic scholarships didn’t always apply over the summer.
I was expecting everyone to be completely different. I was expecting them to have negative perspective on Americans, especially being a person of color studying abroad. Once I got over there, they were more open than what I thought and just from my experience, it seemed like they viewed me more as an American and didn’t necessarily tie me to being a person of color. Anything about American culture, they would apply to me or ask questions about. That was strange to me, because in America, I get asked about the African American experience.
In England, we got to see a few different cities. I think what I liked most was the history and the architecture. Being in London, you could see the older architecture. It was beautiful to see how the city was laid out, and how diverse and populated London is. We went to a city called Bath, which was one of the first places that was conquered by Rome and it still has a lot of the Roman architecture. One memorable experience from my Ireland experience—the class was about conflict and dispute resolution—and what was interesting to me was that they didn’t have tons of racial diversity, but the conflict they have is about religion, Protestant and Catholic.