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Office of International Programs

OIP Peer: Timmy

Meet Timmy

Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Studied AbroadLa Habana, Cuba – Spring 2017
Concentration: Public Health
Graduation: Spring 2018
Contact: timothy_jeng@brown.edu

 

Timmy’s Experience Abroad

Q: Why did you study abroad?

A. I knew that I wanted to go study abroad for two reasons. One, it had been a dream of mine since high school to study abroad and live in a different country. After hearing about the OIP office at Brown, I was excited to see that I had the opportunity to do so. Second, I knew it would be the perfect fit for my studies, passions, and intellectual curiosity. As a Public Health concentrator, I knew that I would learn a lot from being in the Cuba and studying its public health infrastructure. Knowing that the country was in a politically unique stance, I also wanted to challenge myself. I knew that there would be moments where I would not only have difficulty communicating in Spanish, but I would also be challenged in learning different sociocultural and political perspectives. I wanted to be uncomfortable because I knew that in the end, I would learn a lot from my experience in Cuba.

Q: What courses did you most enjoy? 

A. My favorite course was Género, Raza y Desigualdades en Cuba (Gender, Race, and Inequalities in Cuba). One thing that I loved about the class was its encouragement and emphasis on independent research. I wanted to conduct a narrative project on Havana’s Barrio Chino and I had the support/critiques of Professor Marta Núñez and the students in my class to successfully conduct my project.

I also designed my own GLISP (Global Independent Study Project) that examined the public health of alternative medicine in Cuba. I blended it with my class on Cuban Public Health and I’d be glad to talk to you about the process of planning, writing, and establishing a GLISP!

Q: What is something you wish you had known before going abroad?

A. I wish I had been better informed how difficult it would be to navigate my identity as a Taiwanese-American in Cuba. It was common to hear folks yell chino, ni hao, and koncichiwa to me as I made my way to the university for class. I think it was difficult to differentiate between how much of it was cultural and how much of it was racial while also trying to navigate my own positionality in Cuba. I was never able to reconcile these feelings, but what helped me the most was talking to other Asian-identifying students on the program and learning about the Chinese kulie trade and diaspora in Cuba.

Q: Highlight from abroad?

A. Two of my best moments from studying abroad in Cuba was climbing Pico Turquino, the highest mountain point in Cuba, and meeting with Jeffrey DeLaurentis (the US ambassador to Cuba) at his house where former President Obama had also stayed during his visit to Cuba. Climbing Pico Turquino gave me so much confidence because it allowed me to see how far I had come personally and intellectually since starting my semester abroad. Meeting Jeffrey DeLaurentis also felt like a surreal experience because as a first-generation college student, never had I imagined that I would have the opportunity to meet an important figure one-on-one and ask pressing questions about US-Cuban relations.   

Q: What do you miss about your time abroad?

A. My friends. The one thing that I loved about our cohort was that we were so close with each other. We would often go to the Fábrica de Arte, Habana Vieja, or 1830 (a salsa club along the Malecón) to have fun and even when we weren’t going out, we would always hang out with each other. To celebrate the birthday of one of the other students, one of us even set up a scavenger hunt around the city that finished at one of the popular nightclubs in the city. To this day, I talk to a lot of my friends in the cohort.

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