Ashlyn Gary


Community Health in Oaxaca (Faculty-Initiated Program), Summer 2016
Major: Human Biology/Film and Media Studies
College year while abroad: Sophomore


Why did you choose to study abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico?

I chose to participate in Community Health in Oaxaca because the program intersected both health and science research with a rich focus on community engagement. Through partnerships with Child Family Health International and other community health organizations, I had the opportunity to observe another culture’s healthcare system and was given the chance to work with high-level health officers and public health providers to actively address community health needs.

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Oaxaca?

Before my trip, I was extremely nervous about my level of Spanish. Although I had completed a year of Spanish, I was initially nervous about interacting with strangers to ask for help and living with a host family that would only speak Spanish with me. However, to my surprise, the people of Oaxaca were extraordinarly kind and fostered an encouraging environment for learning and practicing.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Oaxaca?

Through living with a host family, observing physician-patient interactions in clinics, and taking conversational Spanish classes, I unquestionably increased my linguistic competency in Spanish.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

I learned that I am capable of adapting in different and uncomfortable situations when necessary.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

The most challenging experience I encountered was getting ill after eating some suspicous street food.  After that experience, I definitely learned to be a little more selective in my meal choices from then on.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

Living with a host family was not a colossal cultural adjustment, but I certatinly had to acclimate to a different environment (living in a new home, not speaking any English, and adjusting to the eating schedules of my host-family) Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable experience.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Oaxaca?

Community Health in Oaxaca consisted of clinical rotations in the morning, Spanish classes during the day, and cultural outings on the weekend! My favorite part of everyday life, however, was conversing to my host mom every day.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Oaxaca?

Observing a leg amputation! Truly one of the most graphically intense experiences I have ever had.  ;)

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

chaotic, eye-opening, exhilarating, unpredictable, and immersive

What was your favorite food you had in Oaxaca?


What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

My video camera!

What was your favorite music that you discovered in Oaxaca?

Cumbia and Banda!