Connecting Experience and Education

By the end of her experience on the International Honors Program (IHP) in the spring of 2015, Asha Ahmed, 21, earned the award ‘Most Likely to go Native’ from her peers, which she still considers to be a badge of honor.

While it may have seemed like a joke, ‘going native’ was the very key to the Providence College student’s mission for experiential learning while on the IHP Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care study in South Africa, India, and Brazil.

“In each country we went to I was able to understand certain things because I was trying to live the way the local people are living,” said Asha, who is originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and moved to the United States at the age of 12 with shared responsibility for her four-year-old brother. “During IHP I was picking up on things like environmental factors in social and health issues, and how that affects peoples’ access to basic needs, and by the end I was only able to do that because I came to understand the way people live.”

"Learn to understand, take control of your education; you have the opportunity to learn from everyone and learn from everything." — Asha Ahmed

Asha credits IHP, a program of the School for International Training, with putting her Global Studies and Health Policy and Management degree into real-world context.

In India, Asha was able to see the extent to which the caste system still plays a role in access to basic health care; in South Africa, she witnessed how the wounds of apartheid persist in the unequal distribution of resources such as water and sanitation; in Brazil, she studied and saw firsthand the successes and failures of health as a fundamental social right established in the 1988 constitution.

During the homestay portion of the IHP experience, Asha said, “it was right then that I was able to ask any questions, take my education in my own hands. It wasn’t sitting in classroom or living out of my textbooks. It was a real life experience — things were happening right in front of me, and I had all these resources and the opportunity to research whatever I wanted to.”

“I just needed to see how my host family lived and the issues they’re facing, and go out into the community,” Asha continued. While back at Providence College, Asha serves as a de-facto IHP ambassador — fielding questions from prospective students eager to learn from her experiences on the program. One of the most recurring queries, she said, is “what’s one thing you wish you knew about IHP?”

“Sometimes I don’t even know what to tell them,” she said. “Because once I was on IHP, with the help of the IHP group, we were able to figure out everything together as a community and support each other throughout.”

Asha advises potential IHP students “the classes don’t end after 5 pm. Go out there, ask your host family questions, try to actually learn about the culture.”

“Learn to understand, take control of your education; you have the opportunity to learn from everyone and learn from everything.” Asha Ahmed’s IHP experience was made possible, in part, by scholarship support provided by our generous donors. This year, SIT will award nearly $1.3 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad and IHP students.