Major: Woodrow Wilson
Residential College: Butler
OIP Program: Novogratz Bridge Year Program
Location (city, country): Cochabamba, Bolivia
Describe a memorable experience abroad:
Sitting at my homestay's kitchen island having lunch with my homestay mom and older brother, the breezy blue sky marked with clouds closer than they might normally be. Our small black kitten, Tiqa, cried for more peanut soup as my mom poured more into my bowl answering the question “¿Quieres más?” before I could. It was one of the more casual conversations of our lunch hour-- not emotional fragilities but instead the validities of french fries in soup. I expressed my preference towards a bowl absence of potatoes, and my homestay brother looked at me strangely. "¡Vas a ser tío!" I had been taking Spanish for enough time to understand what he said, but perhaps I just didn’t know all the other meanings of “you’re going to be an uncle,” so I looked up entirely confused and asked “¿Qué?”. He repeated: ̈¡Vas a ser un tío!” I imagine my face went from the contorted confusion of language to the pensive confusion of circumstance to the final smile of understanding. My homestay brother was having a baby, and I was already a part of that baby’s life, but more significantly, a part of all of their daily lives with its surprising complexities and joys and gratitudes. I suppose I began to love that extra crunch in my sopa de mani.
A significant aspect of my international experience:
Beyond the incredible warmth and welcome I received from my entire family, I learned how to navigate relationship building and the values of familial emotional reciprocity in a far stranger circumstance that I might have ever been able in any other moment in my life. Our interactions began with conversations about cats and food to meandering meanings of love, implications of death and loss, and spirituality. Whether we were shopping in the market together or just greeting each other at 10 at night when you both were out late, my homestay family implicated me in a far more fundamental way of being human.
What would you say to someone considering an international experience?
International experience is a simultaneous escape and entrance into those same positionalities we explore in our academic work. Enter those spaces, but do so observantly, calmly, with reckless abandon, and without expectation of 'saving' anything.