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Mexico: Summer Service Learning & Language Immersion

Mexico City, Mexico

Tempting, Astounding, Challenging – Read All About It in the ACM Student Blogs

Published: September 24, 2010

"The guide told us that we could never leave our things unattended because the monkeys are very intelligent," Zimmerkl's Blog wrote in a post about hanging out on a beautiful Costa Rican beach. "They can unzip zippers and dig inside bags and take cameras, sunglasses and food."

A beautiful beach in Costa Rica.

Photo credit: Kimberly Howard

"You can drink the air it's so humid and there is an array of odors – none of which I can put my finger on," A Passage to India noted upon arriving in Pune.

After just two weeks, So, I'm in the Brazil got the opportunity work in the research lab of an economics professor at a Brazilian university, and wrote: "It looks like a super interesting project and a great way to meet people and become more integrated into the school."

Day by day, the posts come in from student bloggers on ACM off-campus study programs, offering unfiltered, student's-eye views of their experiences around the world.

This fall, more than three dozen students have signed up to be Global Ambassadors, as these online correspondents are known.  The Student profiles & blogs webpage has links to the students' blogs, and there's also a feed of the recent posts.

On the University of Dar es Salaam campus.

Photo credit: Dana Fjare

Funny and serious, part travelogue and part diary, the blogs cover all facets of studying off-campus – a host mother who places a freshly picked flower in the student's room each day, marching bands in downtown Chicago, or how monkeys are as ubiquitous on the University of Dar es Salaam campus as squirrels are on ACM campuses.

Browsing through the blogs

Daily life – the discoveries, the insights, the frustrations, the occasional bouts of homesickness – is the usual territory surveyed by the bloggers' posts, as they spin out observations and vignettes, at times accompanied by photos and videos.

  • "Today, electricity and power went out in my dorm, so I showered with a bucket of water I carried up 4 flights of stairs. And you know what? I already love Tanzania. None of these issues can compete with the warmth we’ve all received from our Tanzanian hosts. Tanzanians have a reputation for being polite and friendly, and the faculty and students at the University of Dar Es Salaam live up to it. Even complete strangers will help an inept American learn a little Kiswahili." - Ian Watt (Cornell College), Tanzania: Ecology & Human Origins
  • "I got to see a painting by Michelangelo, which was the epitome of beauty and perfection - it had feeling and detail that is hard to express unless you see it with your own eyes - just like David." - Kelsey Fegan (Hope College), Florence: Arts, Humanities, & Culture
  • On a field trip to the Ajanta Caves in India.

    Photo credit: Meghan Bodie

    "The great thing about having a professor who's also a legit published novelist is that you get to go to his book releases and meet his super famous friends. Yup. My modern Indian literature prof premiered his new book, Hostel Room 131 at Crossword, a bookstore here. Google it. Or Bing it. Or Yahoo it. The choice of search engine is up to you. You'll find his name.... Oh! And did I mention that he's being published by Penguin books?" - Izzy Peris (St. Olaf College), India: Culture, Traditions, & Globalization
  • One of the highlights of the first week: "Going to a pentecostal church with my family. There was a lot of singing and dancing and being a Lutheran girl who attended a Catholic high school, it was a new experience for me." - Kari Zimmerman (St. Olaf College), Costa Rica: Language, Society, & the Environment

Getting from here to there, and stopping for a snack along the way

Tales of transportation are a staple of the blogs.

On a trip to Siena, Italy.

Photo credit: Sarah Klooster

  • "There are women in 4 inch heels and skirts who cut off the busses fearlessly on their way to work. There are men who are in gorgeous Italian suits who fly by with their ties flapping in the wind over their shoulders. There are cute boys who wink as they drive by. They are all so aggressive and don't obey the rules of the road AT ALL." - Sarah Klooster (Hope College), a Florence: Arts, Humanities, & Culture participant, describing the moped culture in Florence.
  • "Two days ago we took a field trip to the American Embassy and the National Museum. We got stuck in traffic for ages on the ride back. In Dar [es Salaam] there are lots of people who try to sell you items as you sit in your car. Ice cream makes sense, but giant inflatable '‘Hello Kitty' chairs, or aprons, just seem random. People do buy them, too. At one point, the people in the car in front of our ACM bus were buying aprons, when the traffic suddenly started moving again. The guy selling the stuff just hopped in the car to continue the transaction, and was let out the next time traffic stopped. Seeing things like that makes it not unpleasant to be stuck on the bus for hours." - Linnea Karlen (Grinnell College), Tanzania: Ecology & Human Origins

Program field trips are frequently reported.

  • Holding the baby sloth!

    Photo credit: Kimberly Howard

    "Now ... for the most important part of the weekend... I GOT TO HOLD A BABY SLOTH!!!!! I know the whole educational part of the trip is supposed to be the most important, but how can I not be excited? At the Cacao Farm, we met up with a man named Giovanni, who is better known as "Hombre de Perezosos" or "Sloth Man." … I was the happiest person in the world to get to hold the little guy." - Kimberly Howard (Monmouth College), Costa Rica: Language, Society, & the Environment
  • "The rest of the weekend was spent exploring the region’s main attraction: Ajanta and Ellora caves. It was an incredible experience. Seeing and touching 2000 year old paintings, meditating in the caves where Buddhist monks searched for nirvana 1500 years ago, walking through temples that took 6 generations to carve into the mountainside... I think with time what I've experienced will really begin to sink in, but for now I can just marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty of human capabilities." - Meghan Bodie (St. Olaf College), India: Culture, Traditions, & Globalization

Always, everywhere, there’s food to discover and to savor – gelato in Italy, luscious fruit and vegetables ( plus incredible chocolate!) in Costa Rica, Polish sausage in Chicago, and other culinary delights …

  • "The past weekend was absolutely fantastic; on Saturday our group visited Paulina's (the assistant dean) house and had a huge Tanzanian feast. We cooked up an entire goat, and that means everything – there was a stew that included the heart, liver, intestines, stomach, and lungs. Heart meat was actually quite good, although I will not soon forget the texture of the stomach.” - Dana Fjare (St. Olaf College), Tanzania: Ecology & Human Origins

Learning in many ways and many places

And in the midst of the sights and sounds, cultural adjustments, and new experiences, the blogs provide a frequent reminder that when a student studies off-campus, learning takes place in many ways and in many places.

  • Molly Moon at the "Bean" in Millennium Park in Chicago

    Photo credit: Molly Moon

    "We keep talking about thinking big, INNOVATION, pinpointing problems – 'pains' of everyday life. And then, then trying to be the person that fixes them. That is an entrepreneur. And THAT is what I want to be. I am learning so much just by watching and listening. From my internship, learning the ins-and-outs of starting a website. The importance of networking. From class – the passion of my instructors and the need to make us do and think, not just read and regurgitate. And most of all from meeting entrepreneurs." - Molly Moon (St. Olaf College), Business, Entrepreneurship, & Society
  • "I never knew that karaoke could improve my Japanese reading skills but it definitely did!" - Jazmyne Koch (Colorado College), Japan Study
  • "The [Newberry] library is my favorite part of the semester. As an aspiring librarian, I'm really fascinated by how the library works, how the catalog works, how it's organized, etc. " - Vicky Weber (Ripon College), Newberry Seminar in the Humanities
  • "After that [meeting] I knew that I needed to do something soon, and so I believe now that my internship is going to either be working with these individuals, and helping with this cause, or working at the center for wrongful convictions at the Bluhm Clinic with Northwestern. Either way I am just so excited that I had that moment where it clicked and I figured out what I wanted to do with this semester."Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory (Colorado College), Urban Studies, in a post he wrote after attending a town hall meeting held by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
  • "Here is a picture of me looking foolish with Lula behind me."

    Photo credit: Cameron Combs

    "Lula [Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva] came to tour some new buildings on campus and gave a speech afterwards that was open to the public. The lead-up to the appearance had most the aspects I've come to expect of any sort of event here: everything started an hour late and there was a band that played Beatles' covers. Since I got there thirty minutes early, which was almost an hour and half early in actuality, I got a pretty good spot to see him. It was super interesting to hear about higher education from a man who had never had the opportunity to go to college.... He's very easy to understand and is a passionate speaker, making it quite the experience to witness."Cameron Combs (Carleton College), Brazil Exchange in Juiz de Fora

The last word in this sampling from the ACM student blogs is from Sarah Klooster, with a snippet from a post she wrote one week and two days after arriving in Florence:

  • "Italy is still amazing. The food continues to tempt me into obesity, the buildings continue to astound me with their beauty and history, the language continues to challenge me and push me to learn more because it is so beautiful, everything in this country continues to make my eyes wide with awe."

 

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Mexico: Summer Service Learning & Language Immersion

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Grace Robia My experience in Mexico was incredible and I’ve been missing it since I stepped foot on the airplane back to the U.S. Watching the World Cup games with 35-50 soccer-obsessed Mexicans was of the most unforgettable things I’ve ever done. All of the Mexicans that I met were enthusiastic, fun-loving, open, and kind. I’d take the first chance that arose and fly right back to Mexico City. ¡Viva México!

—Grace Robia, Mexico, Summer 2010

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