Patricia Shelton, Class of 2019
Program/Course of Study:
Culture and Community Health in Oaxaca, Mexico Summer Program
How did your experience abroad add to your academic journey at Rutgers?
It was an amazing experience that supplemented my studies in biology and my goal of attending medical school. For 5 weeks in Oaxaca, I stayed with a fantastic host mom and took classes in Medical Anthropology and Spanish. I also volunteered at the Clinica del Pueblo where I met with local children and diabetes patients to discuss nutrition. I also sat in on many surgeries. I went to an outreach trip to a local preschool and then witnessed a cesarean birth. The people I met at the clinic were incredibly welcoming and willing to teach us anything we asked. In the clinic, not only did I practice my Spanish but I learned about medicine and public health from great mentors. In my experience, the medical anthropology class was a great supplemental class to my science classes. I learned a lot about public health and the culture of medicine in Mexico, which I found very valuable since I am pre-med. I did not take any science classes abroad.
I always wanted to study abroad but was never sure how to fit it in my schedule. I started as a Computer Science major for 1.5 years at Rutgers. At the time, I was considering studying abroad my junior year or during the summer. However, because I recently switched my major, I didn't have time to study abroad an entire semester so I looked into summer programs. Because I have experience with Spanish and I am interested in medicine, the Culture and Community Health in Oaxaca, Mexico 5-week program was perfect. If you do not have time in your schedule, I would highly recommend studying abroad over the summer. While it was only a month of my life, it was life changing.
What advice would you offer to DLS students who are interested in studying abroad?
I would recommend researching study abroad programs as soon as you can to determine what kind of experience you want and what will fit in your schedule. I had been considering the Oaxaca study abroad program since my freshman year so it was easier to plan for it when it was in the back of my mind as an option for so long. Also, don't be afraid to put yourself in a brand new environment. If you are scared that your language skills aren't good enough, I would encourage you to make the jump anyway. Most of us felt that way and by the end I was shocked at how much better my Spanish had become. The best way to learn is to be pushed in a foreign environment. I was definitely scared my first few days and by the end I had fallen in love with Oaxaca.