Go short, go long, but go abroad

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There are a myriad of reasons explaining why I am not going to be included in the half of my graduating class who studied abroad. As the Office of Global Education reports, 52.4 percent of Muhlenberg students in the class of 2016 studied abroad upon graduation. I can attribute my lack of study abroad experiences in order of increasing significance to the following: missing a cross country or track season, pre-medical requirements, summers of independent research studying ticks and most importantly, poor planning and ample procrastination.

To all underclassmen: pursue these study abroad opportunities passionately and wholeheartedly, whether it be a semester abroad or a MILA course

By the summer preceding my sophomore year, the first inklings of study abroad consideration flooded my mind. However, I never followed up with these notions or took initiative to explore what possible study abroad options would fit my major, minor and medical school prerequisites.

To all underclassmen reading this, please pursue these study abroad opportunities passionately and wholeheartedly, whether it be a semester abroad or a MILA course. Though I did not experience an entire semester abroad, I was fortunate enough to partake in the summer 2016 Costa Rica MILA instructed by Dr. Rich Niesenbaum and Dr. Jack Gambino. Muhlenberg Integrated Learning Abroad, or MILAs, involve abroad experiences of less than two weeks following a semester of coursework and preparation for the trip.

I never could have imagined attaining the self-growth, enjoyment, learning and service opportunities I experienced during my packed 13 days in Costa Rica this past summer. The focus of both the course and trip centered around community sustainability in the small, rural town of Las Juntas. From planting trees to aid in carbon sequestration, sorting colored glass at a women’s co-op recycling plant and exploring the cloud forest of Monte Verde, each day was packed with new life experiences.

I was personally involved in a public health group project assessing the views of the public and private healthcare offerings to the citizens of Las Juntas. After studying the health care system based in social security from afar throughout the semester, utilizing government websites and peer-reviewed scholarly articles, I had the chance to evaluate the system directly, in person, in the flesh.

My group and I interviewed multiple doctors, a nurse and a nutritionist in addition to directly conversing and surveying the citizens of Las Juntas. I had the opportunity to learn from a society that viewed health care as a fundamental human right, even including this basic right in their constitution. As an aspiring physician, this global perspective on healthcare was priceless. I had the chance to depart from my own ethnocentric lens and learn about what medical care was beyond the boundaries of what I have always known from my previous volunteering and shadowing experiences.

That time of the semester is upon us where studying abroad meetings have commenced. Whether it be a MILA or an entire semester, I encourage freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors (who are still eligible to embark on MILAS and fall semesters in Washington, D.C.) to explore these opportunities. Whether you go short or go long, I push you to go abroad.

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Emily is a senior who channels her love of writing through the opinion and editorial section. She enjoys working with students to represent and express thoughts and opinions on varying subjects that influence Muhlenberg on a local, national, and global scale. Emily is a pre-med student, biology major, and public minor. She runs cross country and track and field in addition to being a campus delegate, student researcher, and ODK vice president of events.

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