Stories that Shaped Us: Integrating a Different Perspective on Life into Your Own
Jonathan Lingard is an ISA Barranquilla alumnus, WorldStrides Professional Intern, and current ISA/TEAN Global Ambassador at Utah State University whose experience abroad during Spring 2022 led him to embracing Colombian culture and carrying over these new experiences and skills to his work as an intern.
We reached out to learn more about why he chose to go abroad with ISA Colombia and how his experience abroad has impacted him long-term. Check out his unique story below and hear his advice for others wanting to follow a similar path!
What inspired you to study abroad in Barranquilla?
JL: When I first began realizing my plan to study abroad, there were a few components I felt were non-negotiable. The first and most important was selecting a program that would help me continue my Spanish language skills. Additionally, I wanted to go somewhere tropical that provided classes 100% in person. I first considered going to Costa Rica as I have always heard great things about the country from various friends and from numerous online resources created by travel enthusiasts. The option seemed adventurous yet safe, which pleased both me and my family. However, when unforeseen reasons beyond my control barred the program unavailable, I began the search again. This is when I found Colombia. The Caribbean town of Barranquilla was everything that I desired from a program, and I quickly decided it was the best option for me. One of the biggest reasons I was drawn to this location was my desire to fully immerse myself into a culture untainted by an overwhelmingly U.S. and European presence. I wanted the furthest representation of a tourist possible, and by choosing a location that many people in my community, including myself, had never heard of before was the perfect option.
What did you learn about yourself through these experiences and how did your time abroad impact your understanding of the world?
JL: Colombia changed my perspective in an unprecedented way. My time as an ISA feature blogger gave me an opportunity to write about some of the impactful moments I had. I saw the daily struggle on a small farm, conversed with people from all around the country, toured the Amazon Rainforest with an indigenous guide, and improved my communication skills with my host family. I saw so many new and different aspects of life, yet I saw many similarities. As I grew in my experiences, I truly wanted others to come to the realization that Colombia isn’t the terrible, violent place many make it out to be. Rather, I felt safe and comfortable as I lived and worked in the city. I gained a greater insight into my understanding of daily life in Colombia which helped me to challenge the narrative of other places as well.
In what ways does the availability of LGBTQIA+ welcoming and accommodating communities impact your preparation, program selection, travel, and adjustment to a new environment?
JL: One of the biggest questions going into my study abroad revolved around safety in the LGBTQIA+ community. Having access to welcoming and accommodating spaces where I could be myself was very important to me and impacted every aspect of choosing a location. Not only did I want to find a location that would work for me as a foreigner, but I wanted to go to a place where the local LGBTQIA+ community members were valued and respected. I read various blogs and travel stories and finally decided it was a viable option for me. I had no idea that throughout my program I would meet so many wonderful friends who shared common beliefs and ideals. A friend shared with me their experiences as a transgender woman in living in Colombia. I saw a surprisingly open community at the university where I felt welcomed and included. I found that many of the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community in Colombia are similar to the struggles that are faced in the United States. Unfortunately, there is always opposition and difficulties. However, I felt safe and valued my entire time in Colombia.
You were a part of the inaugural class of interns at WorldStrides. What was that like? In what ways has your study abroad experience impacted your internship and passion for experiential learning?
JL: With only a few weeks remaining in my program, I began working as an intern with WorldStrides, the parent company of ISA. Working virtually, I was able to balance my workload with the end of the academic semester classes. I have loved the countless opportunities for growth I have seen as part of the inaugural class of interns. I spent my summer working in corporate social responsibility, focusing on bringing diverse, inclusive, and equitable solutions to employees and participants of the many WorldStrides’ programs. I wrote blogs highlighting the experiences of different team members and I worked to bring awareness to a variety of holidays and days of remembrance while connecting back to the WorldStrides mission of “learning in all that we do”. One of the best parts of the internship was meeting such wonderful coworkers, including full-time team member mentors and other interns working all across the many organizations of the business. My study abroad experiences greatly impacted my time as an intern. One of my biggest takeaways is realizing there is a chance for growth and change in every conversation.
Do you have any tips for students interested in entering the International Education field after graduation?
JL: I have truly cherished my experiences throughout the past 8 months. There is no learning more powerful than that which is lived and seen. It is so important that everyone strives to have meaningful relationships and experiences totally unique to the ones they are accustomed to. When we do, we move past the limiting mentalities of tolerance and develop a greater sense of respect and compassion for the world around us.
Curious to hear more from ISA/TEAN alumni? Read more blogs from Colombia alumni or explore how other alumni embraced the diverse communities of their country such as the LGBTQIA+ community.
Inspired by Jonathan’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in a study abroad program? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!