Hannah Sorila - 2015 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I honestly don't know where the idea of me going abroad stemmed from. No one in my family had done it before me, so I had no examples to follow. But, once I declared my Global Studies major, I was required to go abroad, which ultimately led to my decision to study abroad for two semesters!

Ribat el Kheir, Morocco

In Ribat el Kheir, Morocco

Why did you choose SIT Study Abroad?

I had had a friend who went on an IHP multiple country program and I knew I wanted to do that. I respect SIT Study Abroad and I was happy to be able to find the health and community program, which allowed me to explore my interest and passion for mental health in all of the countries we lived and studied in.

What was your favorite part each one of the countries you visited?

Buddhist pilgrimage site in India

At a Buddhist Pilgrimage site in India

I had a wonderful host family in India, and my host mom was an incredible cook. That experience was my favorite living in New Delhi. It is the only place I have experienced true culture shock, but I ultimately felt at home.

South Africa will always be a special place for me. This was my second time visiting the country so I was excited to experience the South African mountains for the first time.

Lastly, I enjoyed my stay in Brazil. One of my favorite parts of our time there was our rural stay where we got to stay at a co-op in the Atlantic rain forest. Incredible!

What made your experience abroad unique?

I stayed with four different host families, traveled through urban and rural areas, and was able to challenge myself every step of the way. We did not stay in one place for more than two consecutive weeks, so the program is not for the faint-hearted. But, I learned so much myself and the world around me.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

We had a traveling fellow who helped us with our community (through lots of team building!), a traveling professor who was able to connect ideas and experiences throughout the entire semester, and local staff who took such great care of us every step of the way. I keep in touch with many of the people who made this program possible; it definitely felt like we built a family together.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I would have gone out and explored more. During the trip, I was allowing myself to feel what I was feeling and take time when I needed it, but I definitely think I could have challenged myself even more. There is so much I didn't see or do, which only makes me want to go back to see how much I've grown.

River crossing, Barro do Turvo, Brazil

Crossing the river to our stay at the co-op in Barro do Turvo, Brazil

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Every day was different from the next, but we generally started with our POD (Person of The Day) laying out the schedule for us which generally consisted of classes, site visits, group research and of course LUNCH! Our days were long and jam packed, so we often went home exhausted, but still excited.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

This depended on the country; markets in India, hiking in South Africa, and circuses in Brazil. A lot of my free time was spent recuperating from the exhaustion of the program, but the days we got to explore were wonderful.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best it?

I stayed with four different host families ranging from mother and father of grown children to single grandmother and her grandchildren, from Muslim to Christian families and short walks to class to rickshaw and train rides away. Each home felt like exactly that, home, despite how different each setting and family was. I was so fortunate to only have wonderful homestay experiences.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

You will be moving around a lot. Once you think you have got a handle on everything, things will change again. The best advice I received was that we often underestimate our ability to adapt. This reminder kept me going throughout the semester, and allowed me to see how quickly I could find comfort in new situations.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

My post-study abroad life revolved around study abroad. I worked in my school's Center for International Studies, volunteered as a Global Ambassador, served as an SIT alumni mentor, and co-facilitated a pre-study abroad course for prospective study abroad students. And after graduating, I am still pursuing my passions within the field of international education.

Garden Route tour, South Africa

In South Africa during our Garden Route tour road trip

Would you recommend your program to others? Why?

I would absolutely recommend this program. Not to everyone, but to people who want a bit of chaos and a whole lot of immersion. This program is intense and taught me so much, and challenged me in ways I could never have imagined. I would participate in it again in a heartbeat.