How did your experience overseas impact you when you returned to IU and what advice would you give to other IU students?
Calderon: It completely changed my career course. When I came to IU, I wanted to do occupational therapy. Now, I want to go into higher education and work in international studies. I think it made me realize how important education is and I feel like I had never gone to college, I would have never had the opportunity to have these experiences. I come from a lower-middle class family, so that was never anything that was in sight for me. A lot of people don’t know about these opportunities until they go to these random meetings and learn about them. When I came to IU, my view on education was that it was just something you had to do. Now, I really enjoy learning and it’s something that opens up so many doors for you.
The first step to take is going to that meeting, and they usually have students like me who do presentations. I was born in Mexico and when I was in Denmark, people would ask where I was from. When I told them I was from the U.S., they would say, ‘Oh, you’re not blond and you don’t have blue eyes,’ so I would tell them that I’m originally from Mexico and a lot of them hadn’t met anyone from Mexico before. I was representing the Mexican people, which is an amazing and scary thing to do, but I was glad that I could teach them about my culture.
I would tell other students not to be afraid to do it. It can be very intimidating, but don’t be afraid to take that first step. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but it’s going to be worth it in the end. The first semester of my junior year, when I was applying to all of these scholarships, was my most stressful semester. But it’s so rewarding. You just can’t compare it to anything. It seems impossible, but it’s not.
Nelson: Before college, I never thought I would be out of the country, let alone out of the state. I really want to go to more places and I just hate that I started traveling so late in my college career, because I would have tried to squeeze in more programs. I’d never thought about working abroad and after studying abroad, it made me want to look for job opportunities out of the country or jobs where I could travel abroad. I never considered those sort of things before I studied abroad.
When I tell other students where I’ve been, it’s like a “wow” factor. A lot of them have never been out of the country, so I just try to encourage them to do it. But a lot of them think they can’t afford it, so I tell them about the OVPDEMA scholarships and the opportunities that were presented to me.
I know the main thing that people worry about is finances. But there are paid internships that you can do abroad, and there are scholarships through IU schools and programs. I got scholarships from OVPDEMA and my school, SPEA.
I think it’s something that everyone should experience, and college is the perfect time because you can do it over the summer, during spring break, or at another university during the semester. With the semester programs, it’s nice being a 21st Century Scholar or having any scholarship because the way IU works, with a lot of the programs, to study abroad through IU, your scholarship transfers over.
I would encourage everyone to do it because it definitely changes you, develops you, you grow, and you learn so much more about the world, because no matter you do in life, you’re going to encounter people with different backgrounds and it teaches you how to work and learn from people with different backgrounds. We can learn from our differences, but we can come together and collaborate, because we have a lot of similarities.