Student Stories: Perspective in the Dominican

March 11, 2011

University Park, Pa. — Penn State student Sarah Colten is no stranger to roughing it. Having already spent time as a student at a school in Honduras, Colten had no trouble adjusting to life in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Getting up for 6:30 or 7 a.m. classes and wearing a uniform was no big deal to the Community, Environment and Development and Spanish double major.

The Chicago native, a senior who will graduate this spring, studied at several universities while in the Dominican Republic in 2010.

Colten took several classes related to her major, including Human Beings and Society and the Identity of the Caribbean, but her favorite class was an internship for Esperanza International. Esperanza is a company that allows people to offer micro loans (no more than $500) to small-business owners in developing countries.

Colten's job was to interview women who received funds and post their stories online so lenders would donate again. Some of these women were living in very poor circumstances and wanted to give their children a better living situation.

"You could see the light in their eyes and the passion; they were empowered in their households and created a better life for their children," she said. "These women were an inspiration for me.

Colten so enjoyed her work that she found it hard to acclimate to life back at Penn State. "It was hard to come back. It was hard to be reminded of how much we have in the United States and how little we are grateful for it," she said. "People here don't grasp that there's a lot more to the world. It's hard for people to think outside their bubble.

But Colten, a student in the Schreyer Honors College, loved leaving that bubble. While she has enjoyed taking classes at Penn State, it was through her study-broad experience that she became sure that international aid was her calling. She recently had an interview with the Peace Corps.

Colten strongly encourages students to study abroad. "I recommend it. It's important to get out of your comfort zone and experience things you didn't even know were there to experience!"

  • Sarah Colten in a boat along the Dominican Republic's shore.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 10, 2014