The benefits of studying abroad were always clear to me; however, the reality of it was hard to see. I did not have the money, I was too scared, I could not leave my family, I had to work and I only knew how to speak English. My name is Rachel Oswald, I'm from Bonner Springs, Kansas and I threw away my excuses and I studied abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico and it was the best thing I could have done for myself.
No one in my family or in my close group of friends considered taking the time or spending the money to experience something like that. I transferred to Pitt State my junior year as an elementary education major and had no interest in leaving the country any time soon. My favorite teachers growing up were the ones who had done a lot with their lives and who really knew who they were. It was not long before I realized that I was not ready to be a teacher. I felt like there was a lot I wanted to do and a lot I needed to learn about myself first. So, I changed my major to Recreation with a therapeutic recreation emphasis not knowing exactly what it was I was looking for.
I had never heard of a study abroad opportunity for therapeutic recreation study so when I saw a flyer about the Oaxaca, Mexico trip I decided to go to the informational meeting to hear what this had to offer. I knew this would not only help me in my future career but I knew I would learn a lot about myself.
This study abroad trip was not what I was expecting. Looking back at my excuses: the price was reasonable for all that it covered. I lived with a local family, was fed three times a day, was transported anywhere I needed to go and we visited amazing cultural attractions. It would be very scary but at the same time it was just the experience I was looking for. I would not be away from my family for long. The program was only sixteen days and I was able to work with my employer and keep my summer job. Best of all, I was not required to know Spanish. It was so exciting to think I could actually do this.
"Oaxaca was a place I never actually thought I'd get to see. When I first heard about the trip, I was really excited, then I paid for the trip and was like ‘wow, I actually have to go now'."
- 17 May 2010 (Journal from the class)
Reality started setting in when I started to pay some fees and register for my passport. I realized this opportunity was once in a life time. I just had to do it.
It was worth every penny that was spent.
Pitt State worked closely with ProWorld and organized this first time program which sent a group of seven students from three different universities and a variety of majors to work with children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in two different schools. We developed and organized activities which aimed to teach a new or strengthen an existing skill. It was such a wonderful experience to share our time with those students and teachers. We also had to opportunity the work hands on with a certified physical therapist that provided therapeutic horseback riding. We learned a lot about different disabilities and tools we could use for the future. Living with a family offered so many great experiences and taught me so much about a different culture.
"This trip was more than just school to me. I showed myself I can do anything if I really want to. I have a drive to help people, learn, challenge and experience. I left the country and lived somewhere where I didn't know their language and...I survived, I did it. This whole experience has really made me think. The U.S. was all I've ever known, and now I realize there are people all around the world who live a lot differently. "
- 30 May 2010
There is no better time to study abroad than right now. It will not only give you more experience in your field of work but it will teach you a lot about yourself. Do me a favor...throw your excuses away and just do it. You will not regret it.