Can you believe 2019 is almost over? In a few weeks, most of us will be setting our clocks back – a bittersweet reminder to take stock of all we have accomplished thus far and put new resolutions in place for the upcoming year. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably looking at the map and trying to figure out which countries to explore, what new things you’re interested in learning while you’re there, and how to manage it all while being a full-time student with a less than impressive bank account.
My name is Samantha, a senior nursing student at St. John’s University. Without wanting to give up my full-time student status, I began doing research on how I can combine my travel resolutions with my academic and career goals. Finally, I decided on a semester abroad. Of course, there are many students who’ve done this before me, but for those who need that last boost of confidence, I’ll give you the step by step details of how I went about enrolling for a semester abroad in Latin America.
Why I chose Latin America?
It was easy for me to decide to study in Latin America for one simple reason – in addition to majoring in nursing, I’m doing a double major in Spanish. I live in New York City where about a quarter of the population is Spanish speaking. That’s 1.9 million residents who need translation services when they visit the doctor and I wanted to be sure that I’d be able to provide those services if one of my patients needs it.
However, you should know that Spanish isn’t just the second most-spoken language in my city, it’s the second most-spoken language in all the United States. Even if your state doesn’t have a large Spanish speaking population, knowing the language will certainly make you a more marketable candidate for larger, national companies.
Another benefit of studying language abroad is the chance to immerse yourself in the culture. It’s one thing to speak a foreign language, it’s another to understand a foreign culture. Some things I’ve noticed about the Latin families I’ve worked with is the sense of responsibility the eldest child must care for the younger children. I’ve also realized that most Latin families possess and unmatched patience when things get hectic at the hospital and we can’t serve them right away, compared to my American patients who want to be serviced immediately. I hope to gain more insight into the culture while studying abroad to better understand family dynamics and day to day living.
How do I plan to maintain a Full-Time Student Status?
In May 2020, I will officially be a nursing graduate. Therefore, I did not want to forfeit my full-time status. I searched for a program that would allow me to complete the credits I needed toward graduation, but before I enrolled, I spoke with my school counselor to ensure that the credits would be accepted.
My Spring Semester abroad schedule will include 6 Spanish credits (3 credits for an advanced class and 3 credits for Medical Spanish), and 6 internship credits working alongside medical professionals in the local community clinic.
In total, I’m expected to spend 14 weeks abroad. The first 7 weeks are completely dedicated to my Spanish courses, allowing me ample time to travel and explore while using my Spanish language skills with locals and other international Spanish speakers. Weeks 9-14, I will work 6-8 hours, 5 days a week at my medical internship placement. I know this will probably be the more demanding part of my time abroad, but the hands-on experience will allow me to develop my skills in the medical field while working with the Latino population.
Where do I plan to go?
I’ve chosen to study abroad in Guatemala. I made this decision based on the populations that are present in the community where I work – Guatemalans and Mexicans. Since both cultures share a Mayan background, Guatemala should prove more valuable for me to communicate and connect when I’m back home.
I’m excited to live and work in Antigua, Guatemala – a charming colonial city full of color and a mild climate. The views from the Maximo Nivel campus look incredibly relaxing and I’m looking forward to taking some time out to study in the peaceful garden. I learned about the on-site travel partner ready to help me book my tours, as well. Here’s where I plan to visit:
Semuc Champey – natural cascading pools created from limestone are filled with turquoise waters. The pictures look unbelievable, but thankfully I will get to see this bucket list destination for myself!
Tikal National Park – a trip to Guatemala probably isn’t complete with a visit to Tikal. Just last year even more ruins were discovered hidden beneath all of the jungle, so being there in person won’t even lend a hint to the true massiveness of the ancient city.
Lake Atitlan – I’m determined to discover the peaceful vortex said to encompass this magical lake. The many yoga studios and meditation centers found throughout the area might make this my favorite visit of all.
Though these three destinations are high on my list of travel priorities, I’m open to having so many adventures aside from these. I’m thrilled to meet other like-minded travelers and study abroad students whom I can spend time studying, exploring, and sharing this once-in-a-lifetime experience during my semester abroad in Guatemala.