Today, Bailey Greene ‘18 is such a big advocate for off-campus study that she conducts “Study Abroad 101” informational meetings to encourage other students. She wasn’t always so sure it was for her, and Bailey didn’t seriously consider the idea until she decided to combine a Spanish major with a minor in English Literature. Wanting to improve her ability in Spanish language, she started looking more closely at programs in Spanish-speaking countries.
It was a School for International Training (SIT) program in Nicaragua called “Youth Culture, Literacy, and Media” that caught her eye. She loved the idea of going to a less-traveled destination, and she connected with the title and goals of the program. The spring semester of her junior year was her first time traveling outside the US, and Bailey fully embraced the opportunity.
She says the program had a sense of autonomy that was exactly what she needed, in part because she was the first Denison student to study in Nicaragua with SIT.
“Being able to go somewhere where no one knew me and feeling like I could just exist in the moment meant a lot to me,” she says, emphasizing the value of going on a study-abroad program without friends from home. She explains, “You’ll always have a certain level of comfort if you’re with people you know, and you won’t have to go through that self-evaluation process that was so huge for me. And I think a lot of people go through that when they study abroad.”
Independent and in a new country, Bailey threw herself into her studies and her exploration of Nicaragua and its culture. Her favorite classes were Spanish language, which were held in private homes in the surrounding neighborhood—sometimes, the hosts who lived in the houses would cook food for them. With just 3 students, Bailey enjoyed the intimacy and individualized nature of her Spanish classes.
Another class invited high-profile guests who would visit and give lectures. Bailey remembers listening to talks given by people ranging from well-known local figures to social justice leaders.
Outside of school, she’d spend time with her host mother, brother, sister, and grandfather (abuelo) whom she thought was unfriendly until she realized he was deaf. Some of her fondest memories are of going to the beach with her Nicaraguan sister, talking about music with her brother, and watching telenovelas (soap operas) with her mom. Laughing, she mentions that her host mom now sends her cat videos every day over Facebook.
“It's a time to push yourself a lot… . “
—Bailey Greene '18
A ten-day trip to Cuba was one of the program's most influential experiences for Bailey. While there, she witnessed some unattractive behavior by some American tourists, visitors who were clearly not sensitive to the culture they were encountering. Bailey says this gave her the opportunity to think a lot about the difference between approaching a country as a typical tourist versus as an appreciative and sensitive learner. While the program’s director assured them that they were students with a purpose, Bailey struggled with that difference, noting that even her fellow students could be culturally insensitive. From that point, she made a conscious effort to evaluate her own behavior and “consider my position as a US citizen and what that means, both outside and within the US.”
Before going to Nicaragua, Greene felt real concern about communicating in Spanish with native-speakers. Now back at Denison, she feels the satisfaction of being able to make smoother presentations in her Spanish class without reaching so hard for vocabulary and grammar. Since her return for senior year, she's been working as a TA for a printmaking class and is involved in Active Minds, a student organization promoting mental health awareness.
Eager to remain connected to her semester abroad, Greene also works as an intern for the off-campus study office where she helps other students prepare for their own study abroad experiences. She visits Advising Circles and other classes to talk about her time in Nicaragua and conducts informational sessions to advise and guide students interested in studying overseas.
Bailey’s advice to interested students is that study abroad is a great choice, no matter what your financial situation may be. (Denison offers institutional need-based aid for off-campus study for eligible students.) Pondering the value of a semester abroad, she says, “It’s a time to push yourself a lot. If you’re not doing that to the greatest extent, then what are you doing?”