This post is courtesy of Roseanne Nguyen, ASU Study Abroad alumni. Roseanne studied in Nicaragua on the faculty-led program ASU: Medicine and Veterinary Care English-Speaking Internship in Nicaragua during the summer 2016 months. Roseanne was also a recipient of the SAO Diversity Scholarship.
What inspired you to study abroad?
I first studied abroad in Mexico City Spring 2016 where I had fallen in love with the Latin American culture. I thought about where and how I could apply my knowledge and skills to the Latin American communities; that’s when I found out that ASU was offering a summer internship in Nicaragua. I aspire to be a doctor with a focus on lower-income communities and to be a part of Doctors without Borders one day so this summer internship was definitely an opportunity I couldn’t miss.
Tell us about the program you went on.
The program I went on was called “VIDA Volunteer” in Nicaragua; we had the opportunity to visit impoverish communities and provide them free, basic clinics. By living in home stays and experiencing their way of life, we had the real “local” experience that you would not get as a tourist while providing basic healthcare to the surrounding communities.
What makes you a diverse student?
I am a first-generation, low-income, Vietnamese American student who is now trilingual! Being able to speak three languages now is personally my favorite thing about me because nobody ever expects me to speak/understand Spanish!
Describe your experience as a minority abroad.
Being Asian American already sets me apart in Latin American countries. I am always addressed as “china,” and it’s hard not to let my pride get to me; my ethnic features give away the fact I am not from Latin America, which makes me an easy target sometimes. Most of the people I have encountered were shocked to find out that I was Vietnamese since they really only knew about China, Korea, and Japan.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
I received some grants, the Diversity scholarship, and took out a loan. To me, taking out the loan for this trip was worth the experience; this was a once in a lifetime opportunity I had to seize, and I most definitely was not going to let money stop me from chasing my dreams.
What was your biggest concern regarding study abroad? How did you overcome it?
My health was my number one concern while I was abroad. Since this was a medical internship, we were exposed to patients who were severely ill with diseases that could have been easily infectious. This was manageable to overcome since we had doctors on call the entire trip who were constantly ready to support us.
Describe your favorite memory abroad.
Hands down, my favorite memory in Nicaragua was getting to help and meet the children in the local communities; they were always filled with so much positivity and happiness. They didn’t need technology to sustain their life, and all the little things were major things to them.
How has your international educational experience impacted your life, academically, professionally, and/or personally, since returning?
What I tell everyone now when they ask me this question: I just turned 21, but traveling the past 8 months has made me feel like I just turned 28 instead. I have grown into a much stronger and independent woman with a dream to give back to the world; traveling has made me much more empathetic to the point where I find myself crying over any story I hear now.
Describe your future career and how you think your experience abroad has
prepared you for that career.
As someone who is aspiring to become a doctor, this experience abroad solidified my career choice. My dream is to be an emergency relief doctor who flies out to countries who need medical treatment the most. Being able to speak Spanish and to understand where the patient comes from is important to be able to relate and have empathy for patients.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad?
Central America does not like hot sauce or any spicy foods. I wish I brought sriracha and tapatio!! Bring all the snacks and foods you like because the food here is quite bland compared to the Mexican food I’m used to eating.
What advice would you give to future study abroad participants?
Always keep an open mind, heart, and soul. You will have epiphanies that can either break you down or be an enlightening moment; remember to always to talk about it and to not bottle it up. Studying abroad will make you mentally and emotionally age, making the adjust much more difficult when you do come back.
If you are a future study abroad participant interested in hearing more about Roseanne’s experience abroad feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.