Major: Child, Adult, and Family Services
Minor/option/emphasis: Leadership Studies
Hometown, State: Okoboji/Iowa
Type of experience: Study Abroad
Experience: Global Leadership Study Abroad: Stockholm
Experience website: https://isuabroad.iastate.edu/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.ViewProgram&Program_ID=12599
Stockholm was beautiful. The integrity of the architecture throughout city is expressed through cobbled streets and historic buildings, bathed in warm colors. I made lifelong friendships with those who went abroad. We studied Women in Leadership and Global Leadership, courses that enriched my understanding for human complexities and the capacity that goes toward leading them. We observed different forms of leadership, such as parliament, city hall, and the royal palace. We also observed nontraditional forms of leadership, such as a library from the 1600s and universities; they maintain knowledge and give people the opportunity to learn. We were intentional of developing our cultural competencies, too. How is Sweden's culture different than the U.S.? How is it the same? Other cultures are neither better or worse, just different. I learned a lot from the classroom, but learned a great deal more from the company around me.
My professor let me know of this opportunity.
An impact to my life...
This experience illuminated the opportunities within leadership. Sweden is championing the fight for equality within jobs. Their gender pay gap is considerably smaller than the U.S., yet they're consistently trying to make it better. Sweden taught me that women belong in positions of leadership without question of their authority. They deserve the same independent autonomy and fluidity that men have in the work environment. This trip gave me confidence and allows me to see myself in the world.
My most valuable learning experience...
We encountered older parts of Europe when we visited Stockholm. Though breathtaking at first with the rich history and beautiful architecture, it also expressed a stagnated area of development within the progressive country. Older parts of the city and other places in Europe are not accessible to all people. One girl on our trip required the assistance of a wheelchair to navigate around. Our group searched for accessible routes, looking for ramps, elevators, and even slopes. We soon found that it was extremely difficult to get around the city, and nearly impossible for one in a wheelchair to go about alone. The design of the city is one that continues to perpetuate ableism. Society serves those who are abled-bodied and neglect those who do not have those privileges. I would say the most valuable learning experience for me was being exposed to how I contribute to marginalization of peoples with disabilities. I strive to change systematic oppression, therefore learning about ways in which I contribute to these systems is the first way I can help to change them. After this experience, I've learned to see how basic structures in life are either accessible or inaccessible. If I want justice for all people, I have to be mindful of all people. That is why this experience was valuable.
I will never forget...
Five of us were on our way to Copenhagen, Denmark via train. We had three trains, however, our second one was delayed. As we arrived to the station, we asked for directions from the train attendant. She said, "You need platform two, which is up the escalator, across the terminal and down the escalator." We expressed our thanks before I sprinted up the escalator. "Why are we running?" My friend shouted. I gave no response and continued running across the terminal as people stared. I hit the sloped escalator, elbowing past those who were stationed in the snail lane on the right. Through the glass wall, I could see our train. We reached the bottom platform, and much to our dismay, the train slowly pulled away. This was our transportation into the center of the city, near the hostel where we were staying. A kind woman named Katrina did help us by navigating the subway and bus system with us. She gave us directions to the hostel, so we were able to find it within the next hour of being in the city. This was quite the memorable experience because we received great kindness from a stranger, and laughed hysterically at the misfortune of missing our final train. It was one of those had to be there moments.
A surprising discovery...
I will answer this by referring to my above answer to describing my most valuable learning experience. Learning more about my ableism was surprising, but what was even more surprising was how people resist trying to make the world more accessible. I think this will change how I approach my professional life by pointing out ways in which society continues perpetuate ableism. I want to be vocal in making cities and structures more accessible for everyone.
Advice for others...
(1) Having an open mind and flexibility is a must. (2) If you're on a study abroad, seek an education with your peers instead of just for yourself. It's more fruitful. (3) Spend time getting to know the people you're going with before you leave for the different country.