Why I went: Studying abroad changed my entire life. It was amazing to experience new cultures, and to compare and contrast life in other countries to life here in the United States. It was just such a beautiful experience — something you can’t just get in class.
Witnessing poverty: In Mexico, a lot of indigenous women were moving from rural cities to bigger cities to make money. They would sell bracelets and purses, and they faced a lot of discrimination. There were language barriers, gender issues, and also classism and racism.
Seeing the inequality really reinforced what I always knew I wanted to do, which was to help people. Here were these women, coming from poor villages to better their lives. Not everything is perfect, but people really try to make things work for them regardless of what system they’re living in.
In the classroom: I had some of the best professors. Not only were they brilliant, but they were so down-to-earth and willing to help students.
I took classes associated with the Caribbean and Mexican culture, including archaeology, Caribbean literature and history. For my thesis project, I made a film about Cuba and the social impact that tourism had on the island from the 1980s to 2005.
It was just so fun and so interesting, and added so much to the experience of living abroad.
Living in a convent: There are programs from other universities where students stay in hotels, but we stayed in regular neighborhoods. In Cuba, we stayed in an old convent, and in Mexico, I stayed with a host family and then rented an apartment with friends. People in both countries welcomed me with open arms. They were very nurturing, happy people.
What I’m doing now: My experiences abroad confirmed my passion for international development work and empowering underserved communities.
Since 2005, I have been working in New York City, managing programs focused on workforce development, education, housing and financial education, while volunteering for organizations that focus on immigration issues. I am also an adjunct instructor at a local college, where I have taught Puerto Rican and American history.