Alumni Spotlight: Niki Gates

Niki is a double major in International Relations and Political Science at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. Originally from Indiana, she has a passion for traveling the world and immersing herself in other cultures. In addition to her school work, Niki is also the President of the Pi Sigma Alpha honor society and serves as the Director of Public Relations on the events board at her school.


Why did you pick this program?

I chose to participate in IPSL - Tanzania because of its focus on community service and the homestay. I truly believe that the best way to become immersed in a culture and learn the language is to be interacting with people in the community. IPSL allows students to interact with other students while still being an active participant in their host community.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Do it. I've studied abroad twice, and I've grown so much as a person. Being abroad challenges you in ways that your home country can't and forces you out of your comfort zone.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be open to new things. Cultural traditions, food, and other aspects of life will be different than what you are used to. It's so much easier to not compare them to your life back home and just accept them.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

It's not so much a story as a person. There was a 5 year old at the orphanage I volunteered at who was completely blind. Yet for someone who didn't know any other blind people and had no education that fit his needs, he was so smart and always happy and very functional. His daily hugs, contagious laughter, and watching him run around with the other kids always put a smile on my face.

What's it like to live without running water?

Wow, great question. It's a big adjustment, but easier than I thought. I didn't even have a toilet in my house, so I had to use a squatter. My thighs were really strong by the end of the trip. Learning to take a "shower" with a bucket is also really challenging, and I didn't always appreciate the cold water, but it's a skill I'm really glad I have.