My inspiration to study abroad came from within. I woke up one morning excited for what my future looked like. I dreamed of studying abroad but never took the initiative until my junior year of college. That same morning, I went directly to my study abroad advisor, Dr. Abraham, and told her I wanted to study abroad but did not know where to start or where to look. Thanks to her, I chose a program that was the right fit for me, and made it happen. Dreams do come true, if only you take action.
Why did you choose the IES Abroad Emerging Economies Program?
I chose this specific program because I would get the opportunity to study abroad in multiple locations, specifically in South America (Brazil, Chile, and a week in Peru). My roots come from there and I wanted to fully immerse myself in living, learning, and gaining global perspectives from these emerging economies. I also liked the fact the courses related to my major of business administration. Plus, I wanted to test myself to see if I could handle challenging situations in an unfamiliar environment. By embarking on this journey, I knew it would eventually open the door to the endless opportunities of working abroad.
What was your favorite part about your host countries?
It is hard to pinpoint my favorite because all three countries were unique and amazing. I would have to say that in Rio de Janeiro, I enjoyed the culture, the vibrant people, beaches, and the living-day-by-day mentality. In Peru, I enjoyed the culture as well, FOOD, breathtaking views, and people's creativity. Lastly, in Chile I loved the geography and diversity.
What made your experience abroad unique?
My passion for soccer and meeting people made my experience unique because I got to connect with locals from each country. Soccer, also known as futbol, is a very common sport in South America and so it was a great way to connect and make friends.
How did local IES Abroad staff support you throughout your program?
IES Abroad was there for me from day one. They were very helpful and understanding. I was excited but a bit anxious before my arrival. First off, it was my first time studying abroad in a new program. Secondly, I was curious and thrilled by adventuring into the unknown (I tend to do so often). They showed support and were with me every step of the way, paving the way to success.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I had joined a local organization in order to network and fully learn Portuguese. Prior to my arrival, I was considered a beginner, but with the classes I took at the center and daily practice, I quickly advanced to intermediate.
Fun fact: "oi, tudo bem? Meu nome e Cindy e voce?" was the phrase I used with all Cariocas (people from Rio). It was a great start to any conversation I engaged in.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
A typical day in Rio meant waking up early to the sound of birds chirping outside our window. Then enjoying a lovely breakfast made by our maid, and leaving 45 minutes before our first class, to grab the bus towards Pão de Açúcar in Urca. It meant sitting in class through lectures that lasted an eternity, but were very informative. We would leave the center in the afternoon to chill by Copacabana beach with the IES Abroad crew, and get back home in the late afternoon to get ready for the night, eat dinner, and get homework done.
A typical day in Santiago meant waking up to the dreadful alarm I set the night before, not wanting to leave my bed due to the cold weather outside and no heater inside. I would take the bus to class early just to avoid the long traffic lines from people trying to get to work in the morning. Class involved listening to lectures that would run for two hours or more, and then lunch at the corner shop by the center. After lunch was round two of class, ending late afternoon. I would have to leave right after classes finished to avoid rush hour in Santiago’s Metro. Not a pretty sight, but a great experience overall.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoyed heading to the beach, farm, mountains, and playing soccer (or futevolei). Outdoors activities were my go to option on the weekends. Meeting students from local universities made it more enjoyable because they would like to invite and show us around hidden gems that a tourist would not be able to find searching online.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
During my time abroad, I stayed in a homestay. I thought living with a family was a way to live a destination, not just visit it. You don't only meet locals, you get to live with them. In Rio I stayed with a lady whom I enjoyed getting to know, she took good care of us. My roommate Rebecca and I both enjoyed her meals and connected well with her. In Santiago, I was placed in a family of three. The mother and her two boys were so kind to me, I thought of them as a second family. This extra bonding time at our new home made this experience more memorable, in my opinion.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
You should know to pack light and have a budget spreadsheet. I overpacked stuff I did not even use, and spent more than what I should have at first. I also recommend looking into the weather forecast and the season. I was in Brazil during summer spent the beginning of winter in Chile.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I'm happy to say I have a few homes away from home. I have been in contact with my host family in Chile and friends that I made in Brazil. I learned so much about myself that it helped me in every aspect of life, leading to a deeper understanding of what I want to pursue in my career. My focus after studying abroad shifted to working for the future. Applying for a masters and working abroad are my next goals.
Anything is possible if you set your mind to it and have that burning desire to accomplish it.
Would you recommend IES Abroad’s Emerging Economies program to others? Why?
Yes, indeed. This program was remarkable. The field trips and courses we took were all related and beneficial. I don't think I could have chosen a better program than what I chose, because I not only gained wisdom into a new culture and insight into myself, but I have a newfound sense of wisdom that shifted my entire perspective of the world altogether. My experience in Brazil, Peru, and Chile has forever left an imprint on my heart and consciousness. If you are seeking an insightful experience of a lifetime, I highly recommend embarking on a journey with IES Abroad through the Emerging Economies program.
Cindy was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She is currently a senior majoring in business administration at Florida Memorial University. Her passion is to travel and connect with people from all over the world. Cindy was fortunate to travel to England, China, Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Argentina in the last two years for study and work. She aims to work abroad in the future.