Three CALS students share tales from abroad
Elaine in Peru / Maggie in Guatemala / Beth in Denmark
Elena de la Concepción is a junior form Caldwell, majoring in agricultural business and education. She is on exchange in Puira, Peru, through the UI Study Abroad Program, and is a recipient of the CALS Multicultural Scholarship and a member of Kappa Delta sorority. She produces a bi-weekly newsletter (edited version appears above) for family and friends.
Elena applied for the scholarship and exchange program with the help of John Foltz, CALS associate dean and director of academic programs. Elena first ventured abroad at the age of 7, when her father sent her to stay with family in Spain. She spoke no Spanish. They spoke no English. "One of us has got to learn," said Elena. "I was the one." That attitude still fuels the success of her multi-faceted education abroad.
September 7 to 22, 2004
¡Hola! ¿Que tal todos? I hope that everyone is doing well, because things here are wonderful! I have been in Peru for two months now. It seems like I just arrived.
Jhuliana Solis, one of the girls I live with, invited me to travel with her to Chiclayo. I stayed the night at her house, and the next day I met up with some of the other residents who made the trip to see the richest tomb discovered in the Americas-that of Lord of Sipan, ruler of the Mochicas-dating to about 250 AD. I've also seen Ayabaca and Aypate, a sacred fortress, the most important archeological site in Peru's extreme north, located high in the Andean cloud forest.
I know all it seems like I do is play, but really, I am attending classes. I have Grammar, Spanish Language, Introduction to Art, International Economics, History of Peru, and Geography.
Each day I continue to learn more and more about this amazing place. I have been to the famous Market of Puira [so] many times now I think that I am becoming an expert. It sure is a sight. I am scared to try and to take a picture because I worry someone might try to steal my camera. If you are wondering, the market is a dangerous place for a woman and a foreigner alone.
Fridays are English club night. Girls come over and talk English, and if it is not a surprise, I am in charge of the club.
Last Friday I attended a conference in the University of Puria's master's building. It is only for people receiving their master's, so I was privileged to be at the conference. The focus was how to market agricultural products that are grown in Puira and surrounding areas. Puira farmers are having a hard time marketing their mangos because of the way the product is packed (not good enough), and the roughness of the roads.
I think that the hardest thing for me living in Peru is seeing the little kids begging for money. It really tears at my heart. Some of the little kids on the street...sell tamales for the family business. When I asked them to pose for me, their faces lit up in smiles (see photo below). It makes me realize how lucky I am to have what I have.
This week I will visit my first agriculture plant. I will also take a trip to Cuzco and the ruins at Machu Pichu in two weeks. I hope that everyone is well in Idaho and I hope to hear from you all.
Maggie Hopwood, from Kimberly, graduated in May 2002 with a B.S. in agricultural science and technology. Now with the Peace Corps in Comitancillo, Guatemala, she frequently e-mails accounts of her adventures to her former CALS friends. An edited version appears below.
Hopwood's 27-month mission is to work with family gardens, teaching sustainable agriculture production, conservation farming techniques, and nutrition. She returns home in December 2005.
In photo: "This is a group of women I work with every Tuesday. They are a great group and very willing to work. Most days about 20 women come. This picture shows our first harvest together of radishes. You can see that the rest of the garden is already planted with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, cilantro, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, etc. They are also working with trees. The fence is made of corn stalks. Notice how the women tie their babies in."
January 1, 2003
Guatemala is an amazing place. There are 23 or 25 different languages spoken here. It is also a very beautiful country with tons of history and lots of volcanoes to hike if you are interested.
October 6, 2003
Today we have 8 hours of Spanish class! I have three other people in my class, and we get along really well. There is never a dull moment, and we are starting to get very comfortable working together.
The town I live in is very small, and everyone says good morning, good afternoon, and good night. The people are very nice for the most part and seem to work hard. My host family has 5 people. The dad works in the main city as a security guard and isn't home much. The three boys, 14, 12, and 10, go to school and help their mom. She takes care of everyone and also sells concessions at the weekly soccer games near the house.
The house is really small. It has pretty much three rooms. My bedroom, the kitchen, and where they live, which I have never seen. There is electricity, but no running water. For water, the family uses rain water. You shower by pouring bowls of water over yourself. If it doesn't rain every day here, the (supply) gets low, and there is not much water for things, so I don't know what they do during the nine dry months of the year.
Streets are mostly of cobblestones or broken pavement and most have huge speed bumps, so driving is quite the process. Everything lets out a ton of exhaust. It is choking, and that is the first thing I really noticed when I arrived.
The people here are very short, just as I feared. The other day we all had to stand in church, and it was really awkward because I was as tall as some of them standing when I was sitting, so really stuck out and, of course, we were sitting in the front row!!! They are very nice.
May 7, 2004
Quick update: We are about done with the giant garden project. All are planted, and some are already harvesting things like radishes. We have been working this week to teach them all how to make a natural insecticide for the pests. Yes, Peace Corps is working organically if possible.
I have 14 gardens planted with different women, am also working with a women's group. I gave a presentation on my life in the States the other week. Tomorrow I will be talking to them about how plants use water and irrigation.
Honestly, as hard as I try, I cannot give more than I am getting in this adventure. I am further out of my comfort zone than they are, and, as a product of that, I feel I am learning and experiencing so much. At the same time, I share things from life in the States, similar experiences and experiences completely different. I share my knowledge of farming and they share theirs. They welcome me into their homes and families with open arms, and just opening my door in the morning is an experience.
Hope all is well on the home front. Maggie
Study Abroad-The Perfect Honeymoon?
By Mary Ann Reese
UI students Beth Toombs and Andrew Hall, both 22, may have found the perfect honeymoon idea for students-study abroad together.
"We spent a week in Paris, on our own," then headed for Denmark, where the study plan turned out to be great, because "we didn't have to worry about a lot of the details-where to stay, what sights to see, where to dine and with whom. All we had to do was get there." It was the first time abroad for them both.
Beth, who graduates in May 2005 with a B.S. in food and nutrition dietetics, signed up for the 3-week summer 2004 graduate course at Denmark's prestigious KVL, the Veterinary and Agricultural University, after marriage plans emerged with Hall. The two met as UI freshmen in architecture. Sparks flew, even after Toombs switched studies to family and consumer sciences. Combining study abroad with their honeymoon made sense, so Andy also signed up for a course at the same university.
He chose environmental science with the European Union League and focused on ways of developing land. Beth's course was Food Culture, Past, Present and Future. Classes were in English. Their professors welcomed both newlyweds to join in all their outings.
Adventure as an eye-opener
"Most of the students in my course had not traveled through rural America and did not have a positive opinion about Americans. They thought most Americans were overweight and rude, and realized after meeting us that wasn't always the case," said Beth. "They didn't really know how we live in the U.S. People think we eat fast food for every meal. They don't think we prepare our own meals at all. They think we all live in big cities."
Beth said she stunned her classmates-from Iran, Greece, Korea, Mexico, and Denmark-by reporting on her life in Roundup, Montana (population 2,200). "It doesn't have a single fast food restaurant." Same for Andy, from Republic, Ohio-under 1,000 population.
The observation that made the greatest impact on Beth, a nutrition student, was going to a country the size of Idaho and "not seeing a single overweight person. I think it's because they ride their bikes and walk everywhere. To have a car is not the norm. And, they don't eat fast food." Also, they think Americans are "out of their minds" to consider a diet like the Atkins. "It was fascinating to me to get another perspective on fad diets. That's another reason I think they aren't overweight. In all of Paris and Denmark, I didn't see one diet advertisement."
Should students go abroad?
Beth sees going abroad as an opportunity for Americans to learn about other cultures while sharing their own ideas. She found "foreigners are eager to hear our voices outside the political realm. It was great to impact others' views in a positive way about our culture and beliefs.
"Every culture offers fascinatingly differences. We have so much to learn from each other."
Newlyweds Andy and Beth Toombs Hall pose by an exhibit at Copenhagen's National Open Air Museum of Urban History as part of summer studies.