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Become a STAR! Study Abroad Returnee Ambassadors, or STARS, volunteer at Study Abroad UC San Diego as peer ambassadors to encourage prospective students to study abroad. If your study abroad experience was amazing, then share your story!

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Spotlight: Africa

Ghana / Kenneth WongDespite having returned from Ghana fifteen months ago, I still view day-to-day life through the lens of West Africa. A half-dozen times per day, I think thoughts such as, "This orange reminds me of the fruit stacked in the African markets" or "That Fiji bottle sure brings back memories of the waterfall hike on the Ghanaian-Togolese border."

I've been lucky to work in Professor Vinetz's tropical disease lab at UCSD and have studied malaria in class. But Ghana opened my eyes to aspects of the disease that I had never even considered. I saw the frequent bouts of infection and economic hardship that people suffered in the tropics' malaria belt. Thanks to the UC's Education Abroad Program, I was able to gain first-hand experience with the World Health Organization and with neglected tropical diseases... the medical field I'm interested in entering.

The time in West Africa at the hospital was eye-opening. I had previously studied malaria through the microscope and public health statistics, but I was humbled to learn there was so much more to learn firsthand, by seeing the devastating effects of the disease and listening to families talk about it.

Ghana / Kenneth WongAs a Third World Studies major, going to Ghana was the best possible immersion into my field. Everywhere I turned, there was an opportunity to learn about developing countries and globalization. One day, I toured an Indian transnational corporation that's the largest tomato paste importer into Africa. Another day, I met an American physician at a malaria conference and was subsequently invited to share Thanksgiving Dinner with his family. And some of us students befriended a couple Peace Corps volunteers and learned about that opportunity. As you can see, doors fortuitously open when you're abroad!

In those five months in Ghana, I learned an incredible amount about America and the values important to me.

by Kenneth Wong

Spotlight: Americas & the Caribbean

Barbados, West Indies / Reina Kawazoe

Name: Tzinti Aguirre-Medina
Major: Speculative Design
Program: UCEAP Mexico
Ask me about it: t1aguirr@ucsd.edu 

Favorite Place: While in Mexico I had the pleasure of witnessing the monarch butterfly migration! This is a phenomenon that only happens once a year, and I was lucky enough to be in the country during the peak of the season. Being able to see the butterflies en masse flying through the forest of the butterfly sanctuary I visited was very surreal. There is a very peaceful and happy energy that one feels when silently observing the flight.

Favorite dish: My favorite dish to eat in Mexico City is a tlayuda sprinkled with chapulines on top! Tlayudas are a kind of partially fried or toasted tortilla covered with a combination of refried beans, lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat, Oaxaca cheese, and salsa. However, when I tried this for the first time my friends suggested that I sprinkle some chapulines (cooked grasshoppers) onto the dish as well. Apparently when I was a child I used to love them, but I hadn't attempted to eat the insect in such a long time. They didn't taste bad, in fact they tasted like chips. I like to refer to them as "organic cheetos".

A unique share: In Mexico I was studying at a university notorious for its autonomous status, setting it apart from the federal government, as well as its history of various social student movements. The activist spirit on campus was unmatched - in the worst-case scenario student activists would take over campus facilities (particularly entire departments) as well as spray paint the building walls and monuments around campus to get their message across which consequently lead to the indefinite suspension of classes. Not even through the first week of classes, on the fourth day, the separatist feminist movement took over the facilities of my department to protest gender violence. For a couple of weeks me and many of the students in my program were on somewhat of an extended vacation since the locked facilities meant classes were suspended indefinitely. A few other departments on campus joined in shutting down facilities and suspending classes as an act of solidarity. This is a regular occurrence at the university I was attending, and it was equally exciting as it was an inconvenience to our program. However I will never forget how powerful their actions were of exercising their rights as students to be heard.

Spotlight: Asia

Name: Jiawei Liu
Major: Human Biology
Program: UCEAP Japan
Ask me about it: jil1080@ucsd.edu 

Favorite Place: All of thoes historical sites I visited with my mates and professors simply impressed me. After walking through different urbanlized streets in Japan, I got opportunities to explore the shadow part of Japan, the historical sites that was retained from hundreds of years ago. The huge ship, "San Juan Bautista", delivered many people across the Pacific ocean from Japan to Vatican. I was able to see a 1:1 duplicate of the ship. I can still remember how it looks like.

Favorite dish: The names of all kinds of Japanese food are still high-frequency words in my life. Among those, my favorite one is called "Yakiniku", meaning grilled meat. Going to Yakiniku is on my plan for every week. Even though it was heavily influenced by Korean dishes, but Japanese Yakiniku has developed its own soul and taste. This is something I must eat in Japan.  

A Unique share: A traditional Japanese festival that is originated from ancient China, "Tanabata", was held in Sendai while I was there. More luckily, I participated in a class where I could design and make the decorations for the festival. In that class, I met students from all over the world. We shared our design, talking about our countries, making the decorations together. The huge decorations were then displayed on the street with designs from different organizations during the festival. I was so proud of our products, and the drawings on the decoration was actually from me! 

Spotlight: Europe

Name: Kayleigh Kornher
Major: Environmental Systems: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution (Spanish minor)
Program: OAP - Valencia, Spain
Ask me about it: kkornher@ucsd.edu 

Favorite Place: I took a day trip to Peñíscola, a town in the north of the Valencian Community, with my host family. We toured a castle, went on a hike, went to the beach, and had a really good dinner. It's really hilly, so we got to see some beautiful views of the town and the Mediterranean as we walked around. I definitely want to go back!

Favorite dish: It's so hard to choose because all the food was SO GOOD! Paella, tortilla española, pintxos, patatas bravas . . . One of my lesser-known favorites was berenjenas con miel, which is fried eggplant with honey. It's really good with hummus!

A Unique share: Valencia has a lot of beautiful natural areas, so I went on a lot of hikes while I was there. One time, a couple of friends and I took a pretty long bus ride to this beautiful, not-so-touristy beach to the south of Valencia. We loaded up our backpacks with snacks and water and walked along a really nice nature trail with lots of trees and even a pond full of flamingos! When we got there, we were super excited to escape the heat, so we ran right to the water. I guess we should have read the signs first because we were met with an ... interesting surprise. Turns out we walked right into the nudist section of the beach!

Spotlight: Oceania

Name: Isaac Cortes
Major: Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience
Program: Global Seminars - Sydney, Australia
Ask me about it: itcortes@ucsd.edu 

Favorite Place: With the friend group that I made abroad had the opportunity to see many sights the best one had to have been the Great Barrier Reef. While, we did fly out from Sydney to get there the experience was phenomenal allowing for us to see the beautiful coral reef and scuba dive as well. Not only that, we went to the tropical north of Queensland and got to jump into beautiful cascading waterfalls- a truly unforgettable experience.

Favorite dish: Australia is a vary diverse country. Thus, many of their foods span from all over the world. Though, in the spirit of trying everything my favorite dish was probably a pizza with both crocodile and kangaroo meat.

A Unique share: While in the tropical north of Queensland my friends and I spent a great amount of are day in these beautiful waterfalls. This area looked was just as you would imagine a tropical rain forest, and while hiking to a waterfall I looked up to see all the trees that were surrounding us- I notices a massive spider that was practically the size of my entire head needless to say my entire group was stricken with fear. When it began getting late, we got out of the pool from the waterfall and my friend noticed that there was a leech on me and so me and another friend spent some time picking the leeches off our body. By the time we hiked back down from the waterfalls, it was getting dark and our cell service was out so we hiked an additional two miles in complete darkness to get signal and a ride back to our hotel- I am incredibly grateful for having had the opportunity to experience all that; because of it I have formed very strong friendships that I know will last.