During the summer, students at FIT are given the opportunity to study abroad in various countries, experience different walks of life, and be a part of various research opportunities.
This summer, one of the study abroad opportunities was a biology research trip to Puerto Rico.
This abroad program was a summer commitment consisting of six weeks of classes and then a two-week trip in July.
Many were scientifically-focused courses as opposed to cultural impact preparation.
According to junior Morgan Billig, the lack of specific classes to prepare the students for the diverse culture was not too much of a hindrance in the overall trip.
But that does not mean the trip was not without difficulty in some small instances where the language barrier had an impact on communication.
“One night,” Billig said,“ we went into this small restaurant… we wanted to order, and I wanted hot sauce with my food, but I didn’t know what to tell [the waitress]. Because you can point at the menu and show them that ‘this’ is what you want, but when I wanted to ask for something specific, I didn’t know what to say.”
It was possible to get by with a little background in spanish, but according to Billig, “When someone spoke no English, it was hard.”
She said felt welcomed by the people who lived there.“They were really open to sharing their culture.”
She expanded, describing how the people there would share all different parts of their heritage, such as displaying handcrafted pieces or telling stories of their lifestyles.
A particular cultural indulgence of the students was the food. There were roadside vendors that would sell different types of foods, from common fresh fruits to other cultural dishes.
“They had things called pichos,” Billig explained. “It was basically a stick of meat. It was barbeque chicken or barbeque steak … it was really good.”
The students spent their time doing research, collecting and analyzing data, and snorkeling a lot. ““I learned so much about fish: now if I went snorkeling, I could recognize what every fish is and name it,” Billig said. “To me that was awesome, because now I know more about it even though it’s not part of my major.