For my study abroad program, I chose an International Honors Program through the School for International Training that traveled to San Francisco, California; Kampala Uganda; Delhi, India; and São Paulo, Brazil. The focus of this program was to do a cross-cultural study on social innovation and social entrepreneurship, and to research how the field of social entrepreneurship was developing differently in each country. To do this, we took classes on social entrepreneurship, as well as anthropology, technology and innovation, and design thinking and development. We also focused on broad themes such as the history and impacts of colonialism, the positive and negative impacts of globalism, the concept of neoliberalism and the impacts on the developing world, and more.
Another key aspect of our program was conducting site visits at nonprofits and social businesses. We visited organizations to understand the problem they were addressing in that specific cultural context, then to understand why they chose that approach to solving the issue, and critically analyze the organizational approach and the impact. Each country we visited had a vastly different field for social entrepreneurship. We visited organizations in Uganda that provided low cost solar lights, or that resettled refugees in Kampala. In India, we met with organizations that provided free prosthetic limbs and mobility devices, and another that was devoted to increasing public sanitation by placing toilets in public or rural areas. And in Brazil, we worked at an eco-friendly permaculture farm one week, and an urban after-school program for kids from favelas the next. By seeing such a wide range of organizations, we got a better idea of the array of social organizations that exist and how social businesses and nonprofits can better address and solve social problems.
While traveling the world, we spent three weeks living in the city with host families, a one-week excursion to another city in country, and a one week fall break in India only. Living with host families was an incredibly valuable experience to navigating another country. Since we had host families, we had locals who were responsible for our well-being, and could tell us the best places to go to and places to avoid. My host families helped me navigate confusing public transportation, taught me cultural norms and history, and showed me how to make traditional food. Having a host family was so critical for adjusting and integrating into new cultures and making meaningful connections abroad.
Going through this program was challenging. From being dropped in a new country where you don’t speak the language while having 12-hour course days and trying to keep up with friends and family at home, this program definitely wasn’t easy. However, the amount that I learned and the cultural knowledge I gained from this program was immeasurable. I am so thankful to have been able to able to have been included on this program, and for all the ways I’ve grown from it.
Lilly Roberson is majoring in Political Science (Public Administration and Non-Profit Management). She spent a semester studying Social Innovation: Entrepreneurship, Design, and Development in the US, Uganda, India, and Brazil through SIT Study Abroad. Lilly had the following to say about her time abroad, “Studying abroad is an amazing experience. You realize how little you know about humanity when you’re presented with all new languages, customs, history, and culture. It gives you a chance to learn so much more about how the world works outside of your comfort zone.”
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