Public Health Abroad: Xicotepec, Part 1

Hi everyone! Autumn here! I am starting a multi-part blog series on public health abroad, focusing on a special trip offered by the University of Iowa. This spring break, I have the opportunity to travel to Xicotepec, Mexico with the College of Public Health. As part of a Rotary group trip, the University sends dental students, pharmacy students and now public health students (as of 2018) to do service projects in the community. The local Rotary group helps to plan and execute the projects, and local students even get involved as well! This year, the public health group has planned an activity where we will go to high schools to talk about positive body image, eating disorders and the effects social media usage can have on our well-being.


In order to prepare to go abroad, we have had classes every Tuesday night of the semester where we learn about the culture of Mexico. Some topics that we have covered have included the history of colonialism in Mexico, the role of religion in their culture and the relationship that Mexico has with the United States. In today’s political climate, we realized it is more important now than ever to know the history of immigration patterns, tensions and relationships that the US has with Mexico. We have also discussed what health patterns look like in the country. Making connections between cultures was part of our goal of being more culturally competent before making our journey to Mexico.


In addition to learning about Mexican culture, we have also had sessions on team building, leadership, and what it means to be a change agent. This is so that we can work effectively as teams while abroad. We learned about different leadership techniques and how we can use these to our advantage to make our trip successful. One really interesting discussion was on common mistakes people make when they try to create social change. These included cultural ignorance (not understanding the community you are working with), deficit mindset (only seeing the problems in the community) & the “magic bullet” (seeking only one solution to a very complicated issue). Recognizing these mistakes in ourselves will help us be able to avoid them while conducting our service projects in Mexico.


In just 4 days, our group of 8 students will embark on our journey to the beautiful city of Xicotepec. Personally, this will be my second time visiting the city, but for the rest of the group it will be the very first time that they experience the magic of Xicotepec. I am so incredibly excited to return to the warm, welcoming community and can’t wait to grow the public health project. Once returning to the US, I’ll be sure to share our experiences (and lots of pictures) on the blog, so stay tuned for more!!


Thanks for reading!! If you have any questions regarding this post, about admissions, or public health in general, please reach out to us at:

Catch ya next week with a new post!



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