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Study Abroad Essay Contest Winners

CLACS is please to announce the winners of our 2015 Study Abroad Essay Contest Winners. Thank you to everyone who submitted their essay for consideration!

1st Prize Winner: Anne Riley
"Understanding Modern Culture in an Archaeological Site"

This summer, I traveled to Peru to work on an archaeological excavation of a pre-Inca site from the Late Middle Horizon. I had never been to South America and was traveling alone to work with people I had never met. I felt nervous as I waited in airports during layovers that were entirely too long. When I finally landed in Lima late at night, I forgot my sweatshirt on the plane and had to wait two hours until a staff member could retrieve the sweatshirt and take it to the lost and found for me to pick up, during which time, I unintentionally fell asleep on the airport floor. After receiving my sweatshirt, I took a taxi to a backpackers' hostel. The Lima traffic reminded me of videos I had seen in Drivers Ed of the terrifying driving practices that take place in India. When I arrived at the hostel, I was both too tired and too scared to do anything but stay in my room and go to bed immediately.

Although I was off to a rocky start with Peru, after meeting up with the rest of our crew and taking a long bus ride to the community neighboring our dig site, I felt excited to explore. It was a small yet noisy town with a bustling market and many shops and restaurants. Clothes were hanging on lines to dry on the rooftops of almost every building. On the outskirts of the town was the community cemetery. Behind the cemetery was the community dump. And just beyond the dump was our archaeological site.

The full essay will be published in this semester's Enfoque newsletter.

2nd Prize Winner: Becca Reeder
"A Month in the Dominican"

I was bitten with wanderlust when I was young, and have traveled to other states and countries since I can remember. But until May 11, 2014, I had never been to a third world country, and had no reference for how poverty-stricken parts of the Dominican Republic are until I was there. Normally, when you think of the Dominican Republic, you think of the crystal blue seas of the Caribbean and thatched huts on gorgeous white beaches. Unfortunately, many travelers miss out on the true Dominican culture by staying in resorts that idealize vacations.

Instead, we were immersed in the Dominican culture by staying with host families in Santiago, the second largest city in the DR. The closest beach is over an hour away; although we went on weekend excursions, staying in an urban area allowed us to focus on the culture and the language of the people without being distracted by the pristine, sparkling waters. Our host families formed what the Dominican considers a middle class - most citizens are either very poor or very rich - and yet, I still experienced the wake-up call of culture shock; having five minutes of hot water in the shower was a luxury, toilet paper was thrown in a zafacón (trash can), and we could only drink bottled water. But as I assimilated to these changes in routine, it became secondhand nature and I forgot I was surrounded by poverty.

The full essay will be published in this semester's Enfoque newsletter.