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Become a Global Citizen

September 9, 2019

Ali Oosterhuis chose a learning abroad program that she knew would challenge her, and it paid off. “No other experience will teach you so much about the vast diversity that exists in the world,” she says.

Major: Spanish Studies
Minor: Psychology 
Graduation Year: May 2018
Study Abroad Location: MSID Ecuador, Spring 2017

How did you choose your program?

I was looking for a program that would challenge me and push me outside of my comfort zone. I also wanted a program that would allow me to interact closely with communities and cultures—and, of course, improve my Spanish communication skills! Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID) Ecuador was a perfect fit because it blended everything I wanted out of my study abroad experience and left me with a semester I will never forget. 

What was your trip like? 

The first two months of the program were spent in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, completing rigorous coursework. The classes were taught by experts in their fields, such as the national director of the Ecuadorian library system. The material we learned was also brought to life as we took adventurous and informative field trips around the country almost every weekend! During these trips, we did everything from touring banana plantations and experiencing local indigenous ceremonies firsthand, to sitting down with state leaders and discussing immigration politics.

I learned so much during those first two months of classes, but I learned even more during the second half of the program. During the "internship phase" of the MSID program, I opted to create my own research project, which explored the influence of the booming Ecuadorian rose industry on women's empowerment in rural areas. I lived with an indigenous host family in a small village with the highest concentration of rose plantations in the country and conducted interviews and surveys in collaboration with the village government officials while there. I not only had the opportunity to push myself to do my own research but also got to hear dozens of amazing life stories from hardworking, caring men and women who had immense hopes for the future and a focus on staying true to morals and being good people. After making these connections with so many incredible people, I honestly had a hard time coming back home! 

What advice do you have for students who are thinking about studying abroad?

Without a doubt, go for it! Studying abroad was my favorite part of college by far and something that not everyone has access to. If you are even considering it a little bit, you should definitely go. No other experience will teach you so much about the vast diversity that exists in the world, and also about yourself and your own culture. You will create amazing, unforgettable memories and connections, and you will also face challenges and setbacks. Every aspect of the experience is 100% beneficial for you and will help shape you into a more well-rounded global citizen who is capable of building relationships across differences and viewing the world through a critical lens. 

This interview was conducted by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.