This post is courtesy of Gabrielle Blanchette, ASU Study Abroad alumni. During spring break 2016 Gabrielle studied in Playa Las Canas, Dominican Republic on the global intensive experience GIE: A Taste of Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. Gabrielle was also a recipient of the SAO Travel Grant.
What inspired you to study abroad?
Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine. I think it is absolutely amazing and fascinating to experience more than just what the US can provide: diversity in culture, food, and different geographical areas.
Tell us about the program you went on.
I went on the ASU: A Taste of Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
I utilized an ASU study abroad Travel Grant, as well as my student loans.
What was your biggest concern regarding study abroad? How did you overcome it?
My biggest concern was experiencing the culture shock. Sometimes when you are abroad it can be quite difficult to read the different cultural cues in a conversational context. The best way I overcame it was to ask the Discover Corps leader A LOT of questions, and I made sure I did some research on appropriate behavior before arriving in the DR.
How has your international educational experience impacted your life, academically, professionally, and personally, since returning?
This program has made me more aware of the socio-economic issues that still stand in
developing countries. It allowed me to think personally and academically while learning about and addressing these issues in a community-based context. Professionally, this program allowed me to understand and embrace the importance of networking with different groups and outlets to achieve a common goal.
Describe your favorite memory abroad.
My favorite memory while abroad was when we did a village visit. We were to help interview the community members of the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives. It was especially impactful to hear their stories and witness first hand how they all come together to help each other out.
Describe your future career and how you think your experience abroad has prepared you for that career.
I think this experience has helped me better understand the path I want to take to get to that future career. I think I have always known what I wanted to do, but the path to that career was still unclear. This experience has definitely made me realize that I would love to work in community-based conservation and national parks. I think this experience also made me realize how badly I want to work in South America, as the language and cultural cues came more naturally.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad?
Fortunately I felt well prepared for my study abroad trip. But, something I noticed was that a lot of other students felt lost on the diet and the ‘dos and don’ts’ of Dominican Culture. I suggest spending at least an hour to read up on the culture of the area you are traveling to, to make sure you are being sensitive and respectful to the community members.
What advice would you give to future study abroad participants?
Make sure you are committed to a program. This means making sure you seek funding through many different outlets, prepare yourself for the exchange of culture, and even memorizing simple greetings can make your trip so much more worthwhile.
If you are a future study abroad participant interested in hearing more about Gabrielle’s experience abroad feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.