Aya Tal-mason: Summer in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Year: Senior
Major/Minor: Microbiology and Cell Science/
Program: Universidad Iberoamericana

Have you traveled abroad before? If so, where and why?
The short answer: Yep! 
The long answer: I travel multiple times a year. I grew up with my family going to Mexico for multiple months a year, so when I was little I would go to school there. I truly have had a lifelong travel bug (NOTE: not a microbiology term) and I can’t stop exploring! Just last year, I traveled to Guatemala, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Mexico, and Gibraltar!

Have you studied abroad before? If so, where, when, and for what?
Oh yes I have! Two summers ago in 2017, I studied abroad with New College of Florida on their Honduras marine biology program. We designed our own scientific trials, as well as explored the gorgeous-yet imperiled by the looming threat of climate change-marine environment of the Cayos Cochinos. 

Where are you studying abroad this time and why did you choose this location & program?
I am studying at Universidad Iberoamericana’s (UNIBE) School of Medicine in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It’s a full semester, so you’ll be hearing from me for the next 160 days or so 🙂 

I chose this program because they have extensive opportunities in health, particularly in Tropical Medicine, which ties into my research here at UF. Equally important, I want to improve my fluency in Spanish! The Santo Domingo is a place with a long, beautiful history which you’ll hear about from me soon! 

What are you most looking forward to during your study abroad program? What are you most nervous about?
Excited? Yes. Nervous? YES. I’m excited about the new journey to come. I cannot believe that I have this fabulous longer-term opportunity to really become a part of the Santo Domingo community. I am pretty nervous too, as I am the only person on this program from UF. 

What are some of your interests and hobbies?
Traveling. Just kidding. That’s one of a few passions of mine. I love experiencing new cultures and going on adventures, both at home and abroad. I am a certified SCUBA diver, so those adventures can either be on land or under the sea! I have heard that the coastal city of Santo Domingo has some incredible dive sites…my secret motivation for heading to Santo Domingo ;). Ever since I made it to college (and my mom is not overshadowing me with her talents) I have also found that I love cooking! I’m always on the lookout for new vegetarian things to make and on my travels I look forward to finding new treats to make!

Anything else you would like us to know about you?
I am hoping to be an International Scholar!

I currently do research in the Emerging Pathogens Institute here at UF!

Additionally, after college, I want to go to graduate school for my MD/PhD. I am really interested in global health and understanding the medical needs of the world. 

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