Check out Erika’s story on the Linfield Homepage!
This was my first big excursion abroad and it was such an enlightening experience for me. I was able to learn not only about another culture but also a lot about myself. The culture in the Bahamas had a very different feel than the United States and it was extremely welcoming to be around. People honk at you to say hello, not out of anger, and hitching is totally normal and safe! They definitely valued people over time and it was very refreshing to be around. On an academic level, it was really interesting to see the challenges that living on a smaller and less developed island can create. By going to both Nassau and Eleuthera, we were able to compare and contrast their health care and find out what challenges are specific to the out islands. As our trip continued I learned that many of the problems were interrelated; such as the food they eat, access to healthcare, and work opportunities.
Teaching the children on Eleuthera about type two diabetes was one of the most rewarding experiences. Many times we would ask the children if they thought that they would get type two diabetes when they were older and several would raise their hands. Educating them that there are preventative things they can do was very meaningful. Seeing the enthusiasm the children had for junkanoo, a good exercise for them, was a lot of fun as well. A little disappointing that we left the Bahamas the day before their big junior junkanoo performance though!
Staying at Island School was also a valuable experience that really enhanced the course. It was good to hear about different environmental problems and what they do to be self sustaining. Hearing that most of the Bahamas is not very far above sea level really put into perspective how big of a problem global warming could be for them. Since coming home this has had an impact on my actions and I’ve began doing a much better job at recycling. The active lifestyle on Island School (and the group of students that I was with) really inspired me to get into better shape. I’ve felt a lot better since starting to run again and am trying to keep it up now that I’m back in Oregon. In fact, I hope to run a half marathon this summer (with Janet!), we’ll see how that goes though. The experience as a whole taught me a lot about myself and things that I want out of life. This trip confirmed my passion for traveling and showed me the value of flexibility and being around another culture.
We met so many wonderful people along the way, from the people at island school to children in the schools and our home stay families. Thank you Janet and Jay so much for making this experience possible for us! And for any students wanting to take this course in the future, my best advice is to just roll with the punches and learn to be flexible. Things might not go as you planned, but you will have an amazing experience regardless and lots of fun along the way! =)
This time in the Bahamas was a once in a life time experience that I will never forget. I feel so blessed that I was able to be a part of such a great program. Throughout the month we were able to experience many exploration things while also doing many academic activities. Our academic activities consisted of visits to the local schools to education the kids while also going to community groups to speak about diabetes. Our final academic endeavor was doing a wellness fair for the people, which ended up very successful! Our explorations were also a great time being able to go to beaches, meet locals, snorkel/scuba dive, kayak, camp and enjoying the outdoors. I loved how the mixture of activities kept us busy and continually learning. The exploration activities were very unique and once in a life time experiences. I learned a lot about Type II Diabetes, the Bahamian culture, and about the Bahamas in general. I would tell anyone, who is interested in health related things, to take this course because the hands on experience plus being immersed in a difference culture is something everyone should experience, and it makes people better well rounded. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can do anything I want to do and do it well if I try hard enough. I also learned that I love traveling and will continue for the rest of my life.
It’s not going too far for me to say that the month that I spent in the Bahamas was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had thus far. There are many reasons for this that range from the group of people that I went with to the friendliness of the local people. Going into this course it was understood that flexibility was going to be a necessity, while this proved to be true, I rarely felt like we had unplanned time. For me personally this was a good thing because I love to constantly be doing things. I also loved the fact that we were given so much responsibility and Janet and Jay trusted our ability to present and try to educate others. This trip not only gave me more academic confidence but it also allowed to me get a first hand look at an amazing culture that is often overlooked. The group of people that Janet and Jay chose to be on this trip couldn’t have gotten along any better and I truly loved getting to know each and every one of them. This January was hands down one of the best months of my life.
Will see you again Eleuthera.
This course has been an adventure to say the least. It all began over a year ago when I decided last minute to apply for a study abroad opportunity as it would be my last chance to do so in college. I was ecstatic when I heard I had an interview for the course on diabetes in the Bahamas, and even more thrilled when I was accepted! With a great deal of research, preparation, practice and team building exercises we were all ready to make a difference in both Nassau and Eleuthera.
We spent a great deal of time doing academic work to some degree. We all did multiple presentations to schools throughout Eleuthera (primary to high school), the Rotary Club, the Rotaract Club, and the Island School to name a few. We put on two wellness fairs; a small one at the Island School and our large final project in Rock Sound for the people of Eleuthera. All of our hard work preparing for this class and during our stay truly paid off. You could see the growth in all of us students in a variety of ways. The work load was difficult at times, as it normally is with any 4-credit class. Although we went to the Bahamas for our class and it was beautiful, we still completed a great deal of work—despite what many at home thought would happen! It was very rewarding especially going into the school systems and seeing the students grasp the concept of diabetes or when one student would say they would try to make a change or would tell their parents about what they learned! I was very surprised by our turnout at the wellness fair as we had been hearing of various other events that day people would be attending. We had individuals with a family history or diabetes or hypertension come and get tested for the first time in their adult life. The relief on their face was unmistakable as they were told their numbers were within normal limits. We had a few numbers that exceeded the limit in terms of these tests, especially weight and body fat—so it was very helpful to have nurse Edwards present to talk to these individuals. We were able to work with children at the fair and do all of their assessments, which everyone enjoyed. Overall, in terms of education we gained a great deal from this class. We were able to discuss our cause for being there with so many individuals, both in formal and informal situations. I learned a lot about their culture and reasons for struggling with such common health issues. I’m very pleased to say that accomplished many things during this trip—what we set out to accomplish, and a lot more.
Pleased to say it wasn’t all work and no fun! The Bahamas is of course beautiful—bright blue and clear water, gorgeous beaches, palm trees galore, and amazing sea life. We had many opportunities, especially at the island school to explore the island and what it had to offer. During free time we often went to the nearby marina for ice cream or to lie out on the beaches and read books or play in the water. We exercised every morning come sunrise, which wasn’t difficult considering the warm temperature and beautiful setting to exercise in. The 3-day kayaking trip was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I have been on. It was great spending quality time with everyone else in the group finally relaxing and trying something new.
I really enjoyed the people of Eleuthera and their way of living—low key. Their kindness and love for family was refreshing and made me miss my own. I loved how well our group of students got along, many new friendships were made during this trip with memories we will never forget. There were many opportunities given to us during our stay that made lasting impressions on me; such as, our tour of Princess Margret and how different hospital and clinics are in Nassau and the family islands compared to what I’m used to. Our home stays were incredible, and taught me the importance of family, selflessness and good food! There wasn’t really anything I didn’t enjoy during this trip—except maybe the part where we came home. Eleuthera taught me a few things about myself and my outlook on life. When times get tough and you want to quit, just count of friends to give you that last push you need. It is easier to go with the flow than plan and be frustrated. There is always a positive outcome from a negative experience. Always swim in the ocean when given a chance. Work outs are easier with partners! And finally, the Bahamas is the place to be.
If this class was to be completed again in the future, below are my tips for those lucky enough to take part in such an adventure.
- Bring LOTS of bug spray and anti-itching lotion—don’t be afraid to use it daily.
- SPF 15 works great for a tan
- Skip the rain coat and jeans, nothing but sunny weather here.
- Practice taking quick showers and letting it mellow—you will be better prepared
- Practice being flexible, it is a necessity here.
- Bring two cameras—the odds one will get broken is fairly high.
- Bring plenty of books to read
- Bring two towels; one for the ocean, one of showers—they get really crusty after a few uses
- Be prepared to do anything—and remember, try everything at least one (especially the food!)
- Finally, be prepared to have the time of your life.
–I’m sure I will see you all there! I can’t wait to go back
*Thank you Janet and Jay for giving us all this unique opportunity. I have taken away so much from this trip and would have never been able to accomplish what we did without the two of you. Thanks for sharing this beautiful island with us all—we are forever grateful for you and all of those we met on the way. Special thanks to Island School as well—you all are amazing.
This past January term has been nothing but incredible! Although, I feel a little cheated as that could not have been a full three and a half weeks. Upon getting over the shock of our first glimpse at the blue ocean, we settled into the laid-back Bahamian style with ease. Before we could get too comfortable, we were busy touring the medical facilities on the island of New Providence. We saw more than we could have imagined and way more than we would have ever seen in a United States hospital. They even asked us if we would like to see the burn unit… we declined but were still able to meet a doctor while he was performing a wound debridement. We also were able to get the typical tourist experience, venturing off from the group to tour places like Hard Rock Café and Señor Frogs. The island of Eleuthera was quite different from New Providence and the capitol city Nassau. Far less populated, everyone knows everyone on the island. The people are so friendly that at times you wondered what they actually wanted from you. Turns out, that’s just the way they are! At the island school we snorkeled, went scuba diving, jumped off High Rock, watched sharks feed at the marina, learned to identify fish, took navy showers, didn’t flush the toilet enough, partied late at night with cockroaches, ruined “waterproof” cameras, kayaked to what felt like Florida and back and met some incredible people. All the while we had a many chances to soak up the sunshine. It really felt like there was an adventure around every corner.
Our education in the schools was more rewarding for us than it ever could have been for the students. We met kids of all different ages and provided them with information about diabetes. We gave them tips to stay healthy and tried to keep the mood light (although we did threaten them with complications of diabetes like blindness, kidney failure, amputations, etc.). We learned a lot about the disease through our presentations and how it is unique in the Bahamas. The food is fantastic, but could use a little work to make it healthier. All of our work with the disease culminated in the community wellness fair that we put on at the local market. We were able to screen around 60 individuals, testing their blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI, body composition, height, weight and grip strength. It was a huge success and exemplified the support that we gained from the community during our time.
The people that we met along the way were so inspirational and supportive of our cause. We could not have done what we did without them. Some helped us out around the Island School and others welcomed us into their homes for a weekend. No matter what they did for us, everyone we met was always genuinely friendly and helpful. This made me take a closer look at myself and the way that I treat others—I aspire to be more open as the Bahamians are. There is a lot that I will take from my experiences in the Bahamas, specifically in South Eleuthera. I am blessed to have had such an amazing experience in such a beautiful place.
Back on the mainland with cold toes and tan lines! What a way to spend Jan Term, I had some expectations going in and they were blown out of the water. This course had everything you could ask for and I could not be more thankful for the opportunity I had. A lot of what I had heard about previous Jan Term courses was that they were light on the academic side and basically a glorified vacation. Janet and Jay made sure this was not the case for us making sure we had academic challenges throughout as well as cultural experiences and the tourist experience as well. Thank goodness for that because my parents would be furious if I spent this much money on a glorified vacation for credit.
By maintaining a blog, journal, and presenting to all ages about diabetes we definitely had plenty on our plate to keep us busy. Presenting was one of my favorite activities while on Eleuthera. Being able to present a complex disease like diabetes to 3rd graders is a challenge that I was happy to accept. Presenting to a Rotary Club with some of the most important adults on the island as well as former president’s daughter was another daunting challenge that I was glad to hurdle. By the end of our trip we could do those presentations in our sleep and we definitely cemented in our brains every concept relating to diabetes.
I also enjoyed exploring the islands; hiking to out-of-the-way mind-blowing beaches, swimming with sting rays, baby octopi, jellyfish, and incredible fish, watching hungry sharks, diving blue holes, stargazing, and chasing sunsets we were able to truly get a feel for the beautiful environment and habitat that is the Bahamas. I learned so much about myself and constantly pushed my boundaries to new limits. Staying with foreign families in a foreign place is not usually my idea of fun but the homestay weekend really made my trip special. Very few Americans can say they hit an inside-the-park homerun playing for a Bahamian softball team at 10 o’clock at night. I learned that there are some proud bakers out there with no secrets who are more than happy to let you roll out some dough and make conch patties. I learned how a sustainable facility is not only plausible but easily possible and I learned how to live a greener life as well as appreciate hot showers and dishwashers.
The group of students who accompanied me on this once in a lifetime trip walked onto the plane in Portland as acquaintances and returned as friends. I’ve never enjoyed living with 12 people more and I can’t believe how well we all got a long. I enjoyed learning all of their strengths and the kind of characters they are, this trip definitely would not have been as enjoyable without them. For any student considering this class in the future or any time abroad I would urge them to leave any prejudice and fear back home, travel with an open mind and trust the people around you. You’ll never learn anything about yourself taking the straight path through life with your guard up so relax and try something new, talk to everyone you can, and push your limits. You will be happy you did.
This is the final blog! I could not express how much this trip has been the perfect opportunity to see a different nation, their issues with a non-communicable disease, the health care system, a culture and how these things interact to make the Bahamas what they are. Nassau was a culture shock both times that we were there, in different ways, but mostly related to the sense of over population, the sell out for tourism, and how they directly and indirectly affected health care and diabetes. I was astonished at the openness of the clinics and hospitals, at how they took us right in and showed everything, even what we consider private to the public and in some ways against our own health codes. It was also saddening to see how many people in those settings were visiting on terms related to diabetes. The dialysis center was a prime example. It was fun to take part in the busy nightlife and experience a tourism angle, but I learned that extended times in Nassau would be difficult to handle, personally. Atlantis was an exploration that almost excludes itself from that previous statement in that it feels like a world all to itself; you almost forget you are in Nassau. I will admit that I was caught up in the wonder of it all, but at the same time, and after spending so much time on the family island, I really came to understand that those who travel to the Bahamas for Atlantis are missing a much better experience.
I think that some of my favorite parts of the trip were the times that we conversed directly with the community members and community leaders. Nick and I had an awesome, interesting learning experience during our home stay, where I would argue that we learned the most about the deepest secrets of Bahamian culture and the interaction between the small settlements, their people, and the community affiliations. The Rotaract/ Rotary/ Fundraising / wellness roundtable were other opportunities that after the stress of presenting was over, was a great time to meet the community leaders, philanthropist, nurses, etc. In a similar way, going into the schools was very intimidating at first. You could probably imagine having strangers of another nation come into your classroom and suggest an alternative lifestyle, while on our side the complication of teaching primary students the basic physiology of diabetes was quite intimidating at first. Overall, it was the experience of getting out of a comfort zone and managing that stress to put on a better presentation each time, learning from each other’s mistakes and successes.
The wellness fairs were a fun experience for me, as Nick and I were responsible for taking blood pressure. I have taken BP before but everyone at Linfield is relatively active with normal readings. It was crazy to see how consistently high the BP’s were, which leads me to one other thing that I realized. I have never seen a stereotype so well played by the community that it had been labeled. Most people were a little fluffy (or a lot fluffy), had hypertension, didn’t like to exercise, ate a ton of starch, and the list goes on, which is why it was so easy to see that diabetes was a recurring issue for them, especially on the family islands where resources are limited and diabetes awareness/education is not to its full potential.
Our exploration experiences were incredible. I am glad that we had the ability to snorkel the reefs and get as much swimming in as we did, it would have been cool to have explored more, but I loved to see the tropical fish and be surrounded by so much marine life! My favorite beach by far was Light House, where the sand was silky smooth and had the pink grains that gave it a rich pink look. We had so much fun at that beach just messing around, and the fact that it had a current and waves gave us so much more to do! Body surfing! The kayak trip was definitely a blessing in disguise, as it was a lot of work, but we really saw some cool things as a result and bonded as group while preparing meals in the sand, sleeping under the stars and battling the wind, waves and current.
Lastly, I really enjoyed and appreciated living at the Island School. We could have stayed other places that were more comfortable, but the experience of living on a sustainable campus and learning how to get along with the resources that they had was actually a good time. I personally enjoyed the food and had a great time meeting the Island School staff, such as Laura, Alex, Scotty, Ron, Karen and even the founder Chris. What I have taken from this trip is a new understanding and a reassurance that trips like these are much more worth it when making the effort to travel. We took away much more knowledge than we offered and it was prime for learning in a new cultural setting that is similar, yet at the same time very different from our own. I like being able to make comparisons between the Bahamas and the U.S., to where we are not so different in behavioral downfalls such as bad eating habits and a lack of physical fitness, and it shows in the rise of communicable diseases. For prospective students looking at gaining the same knowledge, definitely check it out, I will always recommend the trip; however, knowing the Bahamas, you never really know what you are going to encounter while you are there.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in The Bahamas this January. Everyone on the trip felt so blessed to be given the opportunity to study abroad in such a beautiful place. There were a lot of unexpected things to happen during this short month, however all were good. Seeing what others call home is amazing. I appreciated getting to know the citizens of Eleuthera more than ever. The thing that I will cherish the most is all the conservations I had with all the people that I met. The Eleutheran people are willing to talk to you about anything whether it is their health status or their jobs or just giving some friendly advice. I think I learned the most from just people sharing their lives and telling stories good or bad. I especially loved the children and they loved us. From the endless piggy back rides given to all the hugs after ever school presentation I was really touched by their innocence and joy. With every school visit I felt like we really made a difference small or big. All the consequential people we were able to speak too, like Luci Baines Johnson, President Lyndon Johnson’s daughter at the Rotary, humbled me. I truly do think our wonderful group sparked something up on Eleuthera and I hope the island can keep moving forward to better health care and better Diabetes prevention and management. I loved all my fellow students that I spent the month with and we were under the instruction of two wonderful professors who gave us the irreplaceable gift of education and growth. I would absolutely recommend this course for a future study abroad student. I would tell them to be open-minded and cherish every moment during their time spent in The Bahamas. I learned that being apart of something bigger than yourself is rewarding and life changing. I learned to push myself to bigger and better things during this trip and will carry this from the rest of my life. I treasure the time that I had on the Islands of the Bahamas and truly feel that this month was extremely worthwhile.
- Anything goes
- Closing words
- Deaf Culture
- Health Care
- JT 2012 Class
- Type 2 Diabetes