Michele Humbert - 2014 Program Participant

Market in Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Inside the market in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.

Why did you decide to study abroad?

Initially, I disliked the idea of studying abroad until an influential Spanish professor transformed my perspective on it and caused me to rethink how cultural immersion could impact my life. Originally, I had mixed thoughts about studying abroad because some people had told me that they perceived study abroad as more of a vacation rather than a higher educational experience. I did not know many people who studied abroad, so I had limited knowledge on what it really involved.

As time progressed, my Spanish teacher began sharing stories and experiences from other students and that started to change my own perceptions. I started seeing study abroad more as the next step further in my education instead of a step back or "time off." Study abroad does involve meeting new people, relaxing, and having lots of fun in new places, but it also includes valuable aspects that enhance students' education and fields of study in ways that cannot be done in a standard classroom.

I decided to study abroad due to my overall interest and love for travel. More specifically, I strongly felt that studying abroad was the only way my Spanish would significantly improve and I really needed a shift from learning in a standard classroom to learning in a more experiential manner. I knew that studying abroad would provide me with an in-depth experience on a very personal level that would enable me to understand and analyze culture/politics from a unique approach that I could never obtain in a classroom; I took it upon myself to take advantage of an opportunity that may or may not resurface.

Chocolate making in Longo Mai, Costa Rica

Learning how to make chocolate at a rural stay in Longo Mai, Costa Rica.

Why did you choose the Center for Global Education’s Social Change in Central America program?

CGE’s Social Change in Central America program instantly attracted me because of the opportunity to study in three very different countries, improve my Spanish, and take political science classes. The program’s classes tied into my interests and schedule perfectly, and CGE’s program description on its website lured me in, especially the sections on travel and homestays. 

What made this CGE Social Change in Central America program so interesting? 

The program is so interesting because it enables students to study in three unique countries as opposed to just one. Social Change in Central America allows time for students to really engage with different cultures and individuals. The weekend excursions, artisan markets, meetings with guest speakers, and opportunities to live in both rural and urban areas make the program extremely appealing and interesting.

What is the best part of the program?

The best part of the program is the rural stays. In general, homestays elevate the overall experience and force students to move outside of their comfort zone, however, the opportunity to interact with the people in rural communities was personally remarkable. Living in a rural setting and observing how different communities operate completely changes one’s perspective and really defines cultural immersion.

Getting ready for volcano sledding at Cerro Negro in Nicaragua

Geared up and ready to go volcano sledding down Cerro Negro in Nicaragua!

What advice would you give to someone from Siena College who is interested in this program?

To students interested in the program, I would suggest talking to people who have already done the program or students who traveled to the same region/countries through other programs, too. In addition, I would recommend them to visit the study abroad office and get as much information as they need early on because spots can fill up fast.

If you could go back, what would you have done differently?

If I were to have done anything differently, I would have interacted or conversed with some of my host families more. Even though I still interacted with my host families, looking back I realize that I could have opened up more.

How has your return to the U.S. affected you?

Before I left for Central America, I knew that the experience would affect me in some ways, but I did not anticipate them to be that significant. However, upon my return from abroad, I have found it harder to reintegrate into my original lifestyle than I expected. The return has affected me in all positive ways; the problem is simply adjusting to the changes due to all of my new perspectives and personal growth. Nevertheless, all of the changes and personal growth that I have experienced (and still experience) have been extremely rewarding and definitely worthwhile.