Veteran Globe-Trotter Shares Her Study Abroad Experience
Culture shock is not a term Megan Peters is familiar with. The senior industrial engineering major has studied abroad four times in the past three years. She has traveled to many countries across the globe, including Italy, Belize and Mozambique.
Peters first traveled to Europe in high school, where she first fell in love with traveling. As a college student, Peters decided to study abroad in Italy.
“I had not been to Italy and knew I wanted to go there,” Peters said. “Honestly, I think it was mainly that I love history and Italian food, and the culture seemed fascinating.”
Peters contacted the UA Office of Study Abroad to discuss program options.
“I made an appointment with Laura Moix, and we talked about how I wanted to go to Italy,” Peters said. “I knew a girl who had done the AIFS Florence program and loved it.”
Moix provided Peters with scholarship information to help finance her trip both through her major and through the study abroad office. Peters was awarded a scholarship from the study abroad office for her study in Italy.
She studied in Florence, Italy, for five weeks over the summer in 2010. She studied Italian I and Culture and Style in Italy at Piazza del Academia. Peters stayed in an apartment outside Piazza del Academia with three other students from the AIFS program.
Peters then went on the UA trip to Dangria, Belize, during the summer of 2011. She, along with several other UA students, worked in separate parts of the Dangria community, learning about the social and economical aspects of a developing country.
“I have always had a large sensitivity to others and been passionate about helping those less fortunate,” Peters said. “I wanted to see what real community development was like. Also, more selfishly, I wanted to travel to a developing country to see what it was like, and Belize is beautiful.”
Her experience in Dangria sparked her interest in water resource management, and Peters began researching this problem in developing countries with her department head when she returned to Fayetteville.
“I presented my research at the International Water Conference during the fall of 2011 with another student, who happened to be the president of Arkansas Engineers Abroad,” Peters said. “He told me about the group’s initiative to build a water tower for the small rural village of More Tomorrow.”
The group spent one week in More Tomorrow living in a mission and successfully built a tower fountain for the village. Peters and her group also did water testing and water perception interviews with locals, which aided her research.
Peters’ initial trip to Belize also played a factor in her next trip abroad to Mozambique. Dr. Amy Farmer, a UA faculty member who accompanied the students on the trip to Dangria, Belize, started a Mozambique program at the UA in summer 2012.
“I had always wanted to go to Africa, and it was the perfect opportunity,” Peters said.
Peters spent five weeks in Mozambique working for Novos Horizontes Poultry Company in Nampula.
“There are really no words to describe how insightful and valuable that experience (Novos Horizontes Poultry Company) was,” Peters said. “These people literally had nothing but were working so hard with hope and diligence to better their situations. They were so inspiring.”
Peters believes her study abroad experiences have affected her both academically and personally. She completed her sustainability minor capstone with her project in Dangriga and presented her work in Belize and Mozambique at the American Society for Engineering Management Conference.
“I met one of my best friends in Belize and made many others on both trips to that country,” Peters said. “I still keep in touch with a few friends I met in Italy, and the Mozambique group does ‘family outings.’”
Peters is currently a mentor for UA international students. After she graduates, Peters plans on going to graduate school and then into the Peace Corps.
Her advice to all students considering studying abroad is, “Embrace the opportunity to be able to gain a different perspective, and enjoy every minute of it, even when you just want a cheeseburger. You literally have nothing to lose.”