Finding Yourself Abroad

Group of UVM students in Oaxaca

Being someone who wasn’t sure they were going to college, I definitely wasn’t thinking about studying abroad. But after numerous emails promising free burritos at an information session, I decided to learn more about the Oaxaca Semester Abroad.

The PowerPoint slides filled with vibrant markets, rich biodiversity, and smiling students did what they were supposed to –I now had to go to Oaxaca.

So, I bought four bottles of sunscreen, packed my bags, and left the U.S. for the first time in my life.

I spoke terrible Spanish, and ate too much cheese; but most importantly, I was a student in the ways I wanted to be. As someone on the precipice of apathy, I needed to get my hands dirty. And I did. I became someone I’m not always in a traditional classroom: meticulous, driven, and excited about academics.

My biggest excitement came when it was time to pick an independent research project.

Being a first generation college student supported by a less-than-lucrative job, I have a different relationship with education than many of my peers. So, I decided to look at the various interactions between students and school in Mexico; I executed a study on the partisan educational system, which limits access for rural and impoverished communities.

By dedicating myself to this project, I realized how passionate I am about this issue. So, upon my return to the states, I started to shape my involvement around educational equity.

Currently, I co-teach a class in a correctional facility, direct financial literacy workshops, and volunteer with various projects dedicated to this mission.

With my long awaited (and suddenly dreaded) graduation approaching, I have a more clarified my purpose. Oaxaca helped me gain experience with in-field research, study issues on a global scale, and shape my vision of policy reform.

Plus, I hung out with a cool host mom, drank some mezcal, and went to the beach in January. Not too shabby.

~Bianca, Career Peer Mentor

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