Margaret Bodalski

Major: Event management
Class: Freshman
Timeframe: 3/11/16 - 3/19/16
Type of Experience: Faculty-led study abroad program
Destination: Bahamas

Overall Experience

I spent one week in the Bahamas on a study abroad shorts trip to get a taste of studying abroad with eight other students and two chaperones. This trip was geared toward hospitality and event management majors, but was open to any major, as the goal was to prepare students for possibly studying abroad again for a longer period of time. I was fully immersed into the Bahamian culture by staying in a hotel that was in downtown Nassau, close to the beach, fish fry, straw market, local shops, and more. We toured several different types hotels and resorts and saw the behind the scenes and operations of the industry. In addition, we heard lectures from the College of Bahamas and BREEF, had a meeting with the US Embassy, toured Clifton National Heritage Park, went snorkeling, visited several beaches, and stayed at an all-inclusive resort the last night.

Memorable experience

I will never forget our Thursday night dinner in the Bahamas. The ministry of tourism arranged a people to people reception, where our study abroad group was partnered with a local family in the Bahamas. We went to this family’s home, met their extended family, ate a home cooked meal of traditional Bahamian food, spent time playing with the children, and learned about growing up in the Bahamas from several points of view. One of the sons of the family studied in the United States and joked about sports team rivalries with us, while some members of our group taught the children a magic card trick. I got to know one of the family’s good friends, Angelica. She is twenty-five years old, lost both of her parents at a young age, and sells her own handmade jewelry for a living. At this point in the trip, we made several personal connections and felt very culturally immersed.

What advice would you give?

College is an important time to transition into adulthood, and I believe that learning about other cultures of the world is essential to see new perspectives and gain knowledge and maturity. In the beginning stages of college, a shorts trip is ideal because it is an opportunity to get the experience early on. It's not only a great way to have fun and meet new people, but also a way to take classes in a different country and gain knowledge outside of the classroom. Going into a study abroad experience with an open mind, allowing it to influence the way you think and act in your daily life is a great way to have a meaningful study abroad experience.

How has this experience impacted your life?

Studying in the Bahamas on a shorts trip as a freshman was an unforgettable experience that led me to create several new friends and helped me learn more about myself. Now I have much more confident in myself, because I have been immersed in a new culture and thrived, so I know I could do it again. It has directly impacted my education growth because I plan to study abroad for a semester during my junior year. I also learned a lot about how dependent the economy of the Bahamas is on tourism. Because technology and tourism are increasing, the event and hospitality industries have increasing relevance in the economy and are rapidly growing and changing. It was very important for me to see this first hand through tours and lectures in another country to understand the impact of the industry worldwide.

How did you learn about this experience?

I first learned about this trip when I first visited the Iowa State campus from an academic advisor who said that this trip was great for my major. I then was reintroduced to the study abroad opportunity in my AESHM 113 class, when John Kramer came to explain the trip to the students after he had led the trip for several years. I knew that I was definitely interested in studying abroad and thought that this would be a good way to expose me to the culture of another country for a short period of time before spending an entire semester abroad. Plus, I was able to gain a lot of knowledge in the industry and I knew it was a great location for spring break!

International Connections