Study Abroad

Studies in Switzerland

My name is Aaron Plotke, and I am a senior at the University of Connecticut with a dual degree in Nutritional Science and Health Policy (my IMJR). For the fall semester, I decided to study abroad in Geneva, Switzerland. The program I am participating in focuses on Global Health and Development Policy. We are covering a wide range of topics from global governance systems and health to food security and international health regulations.

Aaron Plotke and colleagues
The students in the program. Aaron is in the back row, second from the right.

The program has been (and continues to be) an incredible academic and cultural experience. We are conducting multiple research projects from local case studies focusing on health issues in Switzerland and Morocco to a final month-long independent study project on a topic of our choosing. Geneva is home to many experts in global health and development who work for international organizations; we attend lectures by them, network with them, and interview them for our independent research projects. In addition, as part of the program’s goal of cultural immersion, three times a week we are taking classes in French, the primary language in Geneva. We have also taken a few short field trips to other cities in Switzerland, such as Bern to visit the Swiss Development and Cooperation Program, and a week-long excursion to Morocco. This was one of my favorite parts of the program. We lived with host families in the old city of Rabat (called Medinas) while hearing experts from local non-government organizations (NGOs). We were as integrated into the local culture as one week allowed. The first time we walked into my host families building, I found myself in the midst of a four-day celebration for their new born cousin, in which they immediately invited my roommate and me to join. This was definitely a highlight of our trip to Morocco.

As I reflect on my study abroad experience, I couldn’t have picked a better program to complement my majors in Nutritional Science and Health Policy. The School for International Training’s program in global health and development policy has expanded my knowledge into the global arena and has also given me a better idea of what my future career may look like. Studying the work of international and non-governmental organizations has certainly made an impact on what I will do after graduation. Networking with experts in the global health and development sectors may lead to internships and work opportunities in the future!

by Aaron Plotke
IMJR: Health Policy

A Barcelona Experience

“I’m in love with cities I’ve never seen and people I’ve never met.”
-Melody Truong

My name is Asha Chowdhury, and I am a senior at the University of Connecticut with a major in International Media and Promotion. This summer I traveled to Barcelona, Spain, for an internship that changed my life.

Asha in Barcelona
Asha in Barcelona

The internship was with YouBarcelona, a marketing and public relations agency that works with the biggest and most well-known nightlife venues in Barcelona: Opium, Bling Bling, Pacha, Hotel W, Shoko, Otto Zutz, etc. I cannot express how excited I was to learn more about this young and lively company. As YouBarcelona’s marketing and social media intern, my tasks included managing a number of their social media accounts, creating content for their website and translating it into other languages, and reviewing venues on Trip Advisor. This was both exciting and scary, because while I had a gut feeling this was where I was supposed to be, I was very afraid of not being happy.  Fortunately, I fell in love with my work the moment I stepped into the office.

YouBarcelona meeting room
YouBarcelona meeting room

I had two amazing supervisors, Eric and Jorge, who assigned me a number of Instagram accounts and a fake Facebook, where I was constantly promoting venues and responding to customers.  This task was one of the easier ones, but it is vital for the venues to gain recognition and brand loyalty. Customers were very engaged with the social media accounts, and, by the end of my internship, I gained ten thousand followers. This was the most the company had seen in that short an amount of time. Secondly, I created landing pages and blog posts for the English version of YouBarcelona’s website at least three times a week. The goal was to increase our visibility on Google, drive more traffic to our websites, create more brand recognition, and improve our customer relationships. This task allowed me to be innovative in ways I didn’t know I could. Lastly, and this was one of the most tedious tasks, I translated web content for each day in English, Spanish, Catalan, German, French, and Italian. Since tourism is extremely important in Barcelona, it is crucial that we have a multilingual website that can build international relationships. I have little knowledge of these languages, however, which proved very difficult in the beginning.  By doing the translations I gained some basic knowledge of each language and more experience for the international aspect of my major.

Upon returning to the United States, I can honestly say I created the perfect major for myself. I was able to integrate my internship with my major and found that work wasn’t work anymore. I found myself enjoying the whole process. And through writing for social media, blogs, and the web, I enhanced my professional skills. In the future I can only grow more.

by Asha Chowdhury
Individualized Major: International Media and Promotion

Monika Coello’s Italian Experience

This past summer I spent six weeks in Florence, Italy through the UConn Business Summer program. I left Storrs with a little bit of excitement, a little bit of fear, and all the questions in the world about what these next six weeks would hold. At the time, I had just decided to become a double major and add Consumer Behavior to my nearly completed Psychology major. I decided that this experience would be the best way to truly know if I belonged in the business world. The program included two courses led by UConn faculty: “Business in Italy: International and Entrepreneurial Perspective” and “History of Culture and Food in Italy.”

While getting acquainted with the breathtaking city of Florence, my business course took me on interactive trips to six different businesses in the neighboring cities. From authentic paper marbling to a winery run from a historic Medici castle, my classmates and I experienced an eclectic collection of business settings. My first trip was to a pizza company that was unlike any other business we would visit. Contrary to the family-centered way of business that is common in Italy, this company had it eyes set on international expansion while maintaining authentic values. After a tour of the facility, the business executives presented their plans for expansion and engaged in an open discussion about the challenges and opportunities for their company and asked for our recommendations. It was after this trip that I knew I was in the right place.

Tuscan Vineyard
Tuscan Vineyard

As the weeks flew by, we were tasked with evaluating each business, giving our thoughts on what they did well and what we felt could be improved, and constantly comparing and contrasting the American way of business to that of Italians. Despite all of the papers and assignments, we were still able to travel and explore on our days off. As our classes only ran from Monday to Thursday, I had the privilege of seeing the beautiful island of Capri, the ruins of Pompeii, and the magnificent shore of the Adriatic Sea. Those six weeks abroad gave me one of the most memorable, beneficial, and absolutely fantastic experiences of my life. I may have arrived in Florence with apprehension, but I left with every assurance for which I could have asked.

Florentine Lunch
Florentine Lunch

Ariana Scurti, Social Entrepreneur

During the summer of 2015, I traveled to Guatemala with the Social Entrepreneur Corps through the 8-week UConn study abroad program. It was a fantastic experience and program, and I learned more during that time than in any other period of my life. Perfectly complementing my individualized major in International Relations (with a focus in Human Rights and Development) and my traditional major in Spanish, this program reaffirmed my desire to work in the human rights and economic development sector. We worked with students from all over the country and different universities such as UConn, Duke, Babson, Boston University, University of North Carolina, and Cornell. Our community partner, Soluciones Comunitarias, is run by absolutely amazing people, and we worked very closely with them during this whole process. They use the MicroConsignment Model (MCM), a sustainable and impactful social business plan that mirrors microfinance initiatives in many ways.

Our big group was divided into three different teams: Esperanza, Oportunidad, and Impacto. My team, Esperanza, focused on eye care and eye health—this entailed running and organizing free eye exams for the local communities and finding the correct glasses or other products for the clients. This was the first year that they implemented the SVOne (as seen in the picture below), a device that took pictures of the client’s eyes and read what they needed for a distance prescription. As a team, we created a final report of over 100-pages with deliverables and instructions on how to carry out an effective campaign with the SVOne. This included everything from how to create strong relationships with local eye doctors to a way to properly manage the product sales.

SVOne
SVOne

We worked five to six days a week, but on our days off we were able to travel, hike, and explore the local community. On a weekend with two days off, we climbed Volcán Tajumulco, the highest point in Central America. We made it to the peak to watch the sun rise over the volcanoes in the distance (see picture below). It was one of the hardest, but most incredible physical challenges I’ve ever experienced. At UConn, I continue to work with Social Entrepreneur Corps as a Campus Advisor because I truly believe in the work that they are doing and I hope to help them continue and improve upon their vision in any way possible.

Sunrise
Sunrise