Welcome to the International Travel & Programs Blog for Study Abroad Opportunities. Participants in these trips will be regularly posting about their experiences. As a part of The Chicago School Community, you will have first-hand information from the participants themselves and be able to learn from their involvement in international psychology. Thus far, we have prepared blogs for the Puerto Rico, Thailand, Malta, and Sri Lanka. Stay tuned for future blogging in the next few days as students are preparing for Northern Ireland.
Yesterday we arrived in Sri Lanka early morning, two of us lost our luggage and experienced a hectic time of figuring out how to deal with it. We both found out that the people here are so welcoming and want to help as much as possible. Eventually, we were able to find our luggage and our driver was willing to pick up my baggage and drive 9 hours to help me out! From the airport we traveled from Colombo to Kandy. Our first stop was our hotel which overlooks the city and is beautiful. We then got a chance to walk through the rural part of town, where everyone was extremely friendly and curious about who we are. After walking for some time we caught a bus to the inner city. Once we were there we were able to walk around and experience the busy city of Kandy. We then drove outside the city for about an hour to an elephant orphange where we were able to see nearly a hundred elephants bathe and eat. We were even close enough to touch some of them! Our first day we were able to see how the Sri Lankan people are very open and welcoming to visitors and were so friendly to all of us.
Our second day we woke up extremely early due to jetlag and got breakfast. The food here is amazing and a lot different from the “traditional” American food. Once breakfast was finished we went to the Temple of the Tooth which is an amazing Buddist temple in the middle of Kandy. We were able to get a tour around the whole temple and were taught the importance of Buddaism in this culture. We learned that in very sacred areas, such as this temple, it is important to take your shoes off and walk around barefoot. It was definitely a new experience for many of us. After some rest time at the hotel we went ot the Royal Botanical Gardens and were able to see wild monkeys. The gardens were so beautiful. We then went to see a huge statue of Buddah that towers 88 feet high. Once again we took off our shoes to walk around out of respect to the culture. We then came back to the hotel and reflected over the day over another delicious meal.
Second Year Doctoral Student
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
After beginning our second day in Malta, we are truly starting to immerse ourselves in the Maltese culture. We have indulged in Pastizzi, a Maltese pastry made of mashed peas and cheese while interacting with local natives.
The second day of the conference began with keynote speaker Robert Sternberg of Tufts University. After learning about his theory of intelligence in both undergrad and graduate school, we were a little bit star-struck. Sternberg discussed the WICS (Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized) model that he and his colleagues have developed for instruction and assessment purposes. This model not only looks at the traditional definition of intelligence (IQ tests), but also examines other areas of functioning and how it pertains to the overall well-being of the child. Moreover, this approach integrates the strengths of the varying degrees of assessment that we have learned in our classes at The Chicago School.
So far we are enriching our education, connecting with future colleagues, and of course, having a great time.
Until next time,
Ashley, Caryn, Lauren, and Mandi
We traveled to Malta to take part in the 31st International School Psychology Association Conference (ISPA). We embarked upon this journey not only to represent the association, but also to enhance our knowledge of diversity in international school psychology. The ISPA Central Office is located at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and was brought to the school by Dr. Bob Clark, Executive Secretary of ISPA.
For more information about ISPA and the conference, please visithttp://www.ispaweb.org/
Kindly enjoy the pictures below,
Ashley, Caryn, Lauren, & Mandi
The Island of Gozo, one of the Maltese islands
Pictured from left to right: Ashley Wilson, Lauren Frey, Dr. Bob Clark, Caryn Paolini, Mandi Croft
The Blue Lagoon at the Island of Comino
Hola! I am about to end my trip after spending time in North and South Carolina for a week in a half with my family. Our trip to Puerto Rico was absolutely wonderful. Although our trip was shortened by a week, Dr. Torres made sure we had packed days and a substantial amount of activities to encounter. Before I discuss the trip, I would like to say how nice it was to get to know everyone on the trip…there was never a dull moment, and we are a pretty goofy and fun group to say the least!
A unique aspect of our immersion experience was the opportunity to stay in two different parts of the island: Orocovis (el medio de nada…) and San Juan. The first week we experienced life in the mountains surrounded by natural beauty and we were exposed to the simple and slow-paced lifestyle. We grew to love the sights and sounds (Coqui!) and felt melancholy when we said goodbye to our humble abode.
The second week we ventured to San Juan, leaving the nauseating curves behind. Our life in San Juan became more fast-pasted in order to keep up with the bustling lifestyle (especially that of Dr. Torres!). We quickly became in-tune to the academic environment of Puerto Rico because we visited University of Puerto Rico several times and also Carlos Albizo, located in Old San Juan. To illustrate the essence of each part of our trip, I will describe one experience from each place we stayed.
Orocovis, May 11th: We arose at 5am to get ready and travel to Hogar Crea, a substance abuse treatment facility. We had the fabulous opportunity to sit in on group sessions among the clients at the facility. Initially, I feared our presence (nine women and Dr. Torres) would negatively impact the group dynamic and possibly upset the clients. However, the clients were so welcoming, warm, and open. We observed two group meetings, which started at 6:30 am, and it was an unforgettable experience. Not only did the group members integrate us into the meetings by equally dispersing us among the circle, but they also gave us a chance to ask questions and be a part of the discussion. After the sessions took place, we visited with the clients for a while before we thanked them and said our goodbyes. We left the treatment facility around 9:30am and went to a local restaurant to try the best sausage around (mind you it was quite early in the morning, but it felt like lunchtime!). After the sausage, we explored the town of Orocovis and headed back to our casitas. By now it was about 1pm, and thinking we had naptime, we settled into our beds to rest. And then… knock knock knock, Dr. Torres politely told us to get up and meet our families for an afternoon! So, we encountered yet another adventure…
San Juan: May 15th: We attended a conference held at the University of Puerto Rico geared toward the mental health of college students. We witnessed a panel discussion about the current efforts toward the betterment of mental health among college students as well as an information session about specific topics. The panel discussion started off slow, and the head speaker discussed statistics and problems facing the college population. One of the main findings pointed out the need for family therapy. However, the panelists did not embrace the use of family therapy in mental health services for students. At the end, there was an open session for questions, and several people argued about the need for family therapy. It turned out to be an interesting discussion indeed!
Puerto Rico… ahh, where to begin…
Well, I’m writing part of this on the plane as we leave San Juan after a week in the city and a week living the country like in Orocovis; ready to return but sad to leave. Above all of the experiences, there is a key piece I will bring back with me: take time to enjoy life! I will truly miss the serenity and relaxed appreciation for life and family and friends and strangers everyone had. Too many times I feel that everyone forgets to slow down and take that deep breath we desperately need. In Orocovis, this was occurring every moment. Beginning during the first week, we held class next to the river! Despite the constant rain, we sat outside and had discussions in Spanish about the clinical process of interviewing and intake sessions with Latino clients. We were faced with powerful scenarios and had the support of the group as we took turns role playing therapist and client.
Afterwards, we took time to talk and provide each other with feedback, all while enjoying the sounds and sights our natural surroundings had to offer. All of the experiences were truly amazing, but the thing I most enjoyed was the natural beauty the Island had to offer. We made sure to take time to admire the ocean views, the native flowers, and the sunsets throughout all of our event-filled days and evenings. I am extremely grateful for all of the amazing opportunities we were given, the professionals we were able to meet, and for the amazing group of people with whom I made all of these memories with!
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the rich Puerto Rican culture first hand. I am also grateful that Dr. Torres decided to treat us with our hotel stay AFTER our stay in the country, and not vice versa. Actually, our stay in Orocovis, “the country,” was rather pleasant and relaxing. It was here that we had more time to appreciate the simplicity of rural life, and thus spent more time getting to know one another along with some of the locals. We were able to engage in a multitude of discussions with Dr. Torres’ family regarding topics such as cultural issues and politics, which allowed us to appreciate their unique experiences. Although I do not attend mass on a regular basis, I particularly enjoyed a service that was held in a church fairly close to our accommodations. It was a small church, but it was packed to the brim. I admired each and every individuals’ undivided attention and enthusiastic participation throughout the mass. I find the singing portion of the Catholic masses I am accustomed to to be particularly monotonous. That was not the case at the Orocovis service. If I had known the words and rhythm of the song, I would have loved to sing (even though my neighbor might not have enjoyed it). The songs were accompanied by culturally inspired percussion played over the speakers. The songs made me want to walk out of the mass a better person. The mass we attended was held on Mother’s Day, and it was really touching to experience the community’s appreciation for these hard working females. The mothers were applauded and led down the center aisle to receive some simple, yet heartfelt gifts.After soaking up the enchanting scenery of Orocovis for a week, we headed 1.5 hours northeast to San Juan. It is so neat to look at a map of Puerto Rico and match our pictures to the various areas we covered. I have come to realize that we covered quite a bit of the island during our brief two week stay. I absolutely adored Old San Juan. I’m a bit of a history buff, so I really enjoyed visiting the San Juan National Historic Site. El Morro, a massive defensive fortress, was built in 1539 to protect the port from enemies. It’s historic beauty was truly breathtaking. There was much to see in this area of the island, including many unique stores. It was difficult not to buy everything!
One afternoon was dedicated to spending time with a Puerto Rican familia. Havila and I were assigned to a humble familia in the mountainous region. Hesitation and awkwardness was quickly dismissed when our foster parent began showing us around her property. She pointed out various medicinal plants and vegetation. I was impressed by the natural supermarket/pharmacy the familia possessed outside of their home. Our afternoon quickly turned into an adventure as curiosity took us down a mountain trail to visit with the elder woman of the community. The trail was steep and we were surrounded by various trees, vines, flowers, and anthills. Once we made our way down the hill we were greeted by a petite woman swinging on a hammock. She was dressed in a long house dress, and her hair was long and pulled back into a thick silver braid. Although her frame was tiny, strength did not elude her as her embraces held us close. She discussed a distant time where life was simple and peaceful. Where no one could claim the life of another human and where a day’s work was dedicated to collecting the necessity for the day. It is a lifestyle which she still abides. She wakes at three in the morning to pick coffee beans to roast and grind for the morning coffee. Collects fire wood for her outdoor kitchen. Gathers gandules for shucking and boils them in time for lunch. It is a simple life – far from technology and directed only by nature. The natural beauty that surrounds her home is a reminder of the beauty found within an honest day’s work – how simple or laborious if may be.
If I could sum up my experience of the Puerto Rico immersion trip with one word, it would be: fantabulous. Frankly, I’m not sure if that is a word but I put fantastic and fabulous together because one word would not be enough to describe such an incredible experience!
I learned so much more than I had expected. I not only learned new Spanish vocabulary, cultural facts about music and literature, and historical information about the status of the island but I also practiced clinical interviewing in Spanish, I sat in a session in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, I sat in on meetings with psychology students and professors at the university of Puerto Rico, I attended a psychology conference and I sat in on a supervision class with fellow psychology students at Carlos Albizu University.
Wow! I haven’t even mentioned everything else I experienced while in Puerto Rico! The amazing part is that this was all done within two weeks! I have to give all the credit to Dr. Torres and everyone who helped him put all of this together in a little over a week before we were supposed to leave to Mexico. It speaks to his character as a person and to his determination as a teacher to make things happen for his students!
There are too many things to say and it would take me pages and pages to talk about all my experiences while in Puerto Rico! However, I’ll throw in a few first experiences and other random thoughts…
-Visiting Puerto Rico-Meeting Dr. Torres’ family
-Hearing the Coquis (tiny frogs only found in PR)
-Staying in a tiny cabin next to a river
-Riding in a 16 person van
-Riding along MANY curves on mountains with steep sides!
-Riding a horse
-Getting bit by a mosquito that left me a huge round red circle around the bite
-Go into a huge cave where bats, lizards, cocroaches, ants, and snakes reside! (I did not see any of those except for some bats but they did not fly too low)
-Sitting by the beach overlooking the Carribean Sea
-Rum + Coke = cubrelibra
-How can a coqui so tiny have such a loud sound?!
-Is it possible to avoid the curves?
-Dr. T calling us for class by banging on a pot…ah…the good ole days!
-Mama Torres teaching us typical puertorican dances such “bomba” & “plena”
-Papa Torres allowing us to participate in the sport of Puerto RICO: politics
-Meeting one of Dr.Torres’ mentors: Dr. Toro
-Going to an area called “pinones” & eating the amazing shrimp al mojillo with the best “mofongo”
-getting up at before 6:00am for group activities…more than once!
-Having class outside on a picnic table next to a river with coquis singing to us
Overall…I grew immensely after this trip. I found out more about myself and my capabilities and vulnerabilities. I also got to know everyone in the group on a different level. I love every minute I spent with everyone including all the people i met along the way. I feel so close to my group who will one day be my future colleagues. I feel a strong bond was created and this will keep us connected while in TCS but beyond that as well!
For the first week of our trip, we spent our time in Orocovis, a small town in the middle of the Puerto Rican countryside. We enjoyed seeing beautiful mountains, exotic plants, and amazing waterfalls. We even spent one day walking through a huge cave at Rio Camuy park. Throughout our time in Orocovis, we got to experience the lives of Puerto Ricans living in the countryside. The people lead simple lives in small homes spread out in the mountains. What surprised me, was the generosity of the people. One day we split up into groups of 2 and spent a few hours in a family’s home. Our family cooked us an amazing lunch! On another day a restaurant stayed open 4 hours later for us to cook us dinner! Even though people are spread out they still have a community where they come together through school and church. It was nice to take a step back from our busy lives in Chicago and gain perspective on how others live in the world.