Cassia Caruth in front of a Pura Vida sign

Class of 2020, Linguistics, Spanish, Global Health
Duke in Alicante, Duke in Costa Rica, SIT/IHP: Health & Community

  • Women in front of the Taj Mahal
Cassia visits the Taj Mahal in Agra, India with friends.

As I began my undergraduate career, I knew I wanted it to be marked by a focus on healthcare, intellectual development, and intercultural competency. Study away provided me with many valuable opportunities to realize these goals.

Women in front of Christ the Redeemer
Cassia visits the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janerio, Brazil with friends.

My study away experiences greatly impacted my career trajectory. Through my summer and semester travels to Washington, D.C, Spain, Costa Rica, India, South Africa, and Brazil, I learned about the health realities experienced by individuals of varied backgrounds. I came to understand the relationship between health outcomes and historical context, race, socioeconomic status, and cultural and religious practices. By visiting community members and health administrators in neighborhoods, clinics, and hospitals in these various locales, I gained an understanding of healthcare from an individual and population perspective. These unique opportunities blossomed a passion in me for working in the public and global health fields.

My travels have built my courage and inquisitiveness and made me a global thinker. I constantly aim to reject imposing notions of “should” and “ought to” to foreign cultures and contexts. I have learned to challenge the well-known idea of “treat others as you want to be treated” and instead have embraced the idea of “treat others as they want to be treated”. In essence, I am better able to look outside of myself, broaden my perspective and viewpoint, and consider issues with a multifaceted approach.

Women in front of Table Mountain
Friends in front of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.

Over the past four years, I have changed and grown in ways that were beyond my wildest dreams. Everyone says that college will be transformative and life-changing. Study away has been key to helping me see the truth in that statement. I have become flexible, adaptable, and self-reliant. My experiences abroad have contributed to my love of cultural exchange. I have learned from, shared with, and experienced the warmth of people I now call family. The weeks and months spent away are rife with unique life experiences that I will cherish, laugh at, and even shed a tear over for years to come. I have benefitted holistically from studying away and it will always be a bright spot in my Duke journey. The personal and professional lessons I learned will stay with me forever, and I pray that I can continue developing as a well-rounded, globally and culturally competent individual through continued travel and engagement with my local communities.

My advice for students considering embarking on a study away program is - do it! You will grow in a myriad of ways. Your world view will be challenged and diversified. You will come to learn who you are when what you know and rely on is no longer near. You will return to your home community or country with knowledge of another way of life. The realizations that you will make about the world and yourself are valuable, and you will have an experience of a lifetime.

Programs Featured

Duke in Alicante

Duke in Costa Rica

Duke-Approved Program



Learning from the Boruca

"An experience that I will never forget was our three-day trip to an indigenous community called Boruca: a simple, yet beautiful place that is home to 2,000 people."

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Duke in Costa Rica

"The highlight of my experience in Costa Rica was the quality of the time I spent learning with my classmates and professor. Going on a study abroad in a small group really allows you to learn in depth and in unison."

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Duke in Costa Rica: Linguistics Leads to Global Health

By Cassia Caruth

A linguistics major with a Spanish minor, Cassia Caruth '20 found parallels with her country, Trinidad and Tobago, and discovered new interests in the global health field while studying abroad on the Duke in Costa Rica summer program.

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Mistakes Welcome: Let Go, Learn More

By Lucy St. Charles

Before going to Costa Rica, I was a perfectionist. I never wanted to make a single mistake while I spoke. During the program, it didn’t feel like I was making much progress. For weeks, I’d stumble over what I was trying to say. I didn’t notice a change until my last night...the fear that had been constantly holding me back from making mistakes was gone.

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The Professor Made All the Difference

By Andrew Padilla

I decided to participate in Duke in Costa Rica due to raving reviews from previous students on the program. They talked about how incredibly immersive the program was and how much fun they had. I was looking for a unique way to spend my summer and this program was the perfect opportunity.

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Amazing Connections and Friendships in Just One Month

By Carter Lovvorn

The great thing about this program is that you get a full overview of the way the public health system works in a different country. You don’t have to be super into global health—there is a breadth of study and opportunity on the program. And you will still have plenty of time for activities with your host family and to explore Costa Rica!

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Livin' La Pura Vida

By Harry Liu

The Pura Vida lifestyle is best summed up as the combination of the many daily experiences that Tico has. The experiences I’ve had taught me that in order to fully immerse yourself in and understand a culture, you have to keep an open mind, be flexible, and completely embrace it. In other words, you have to challenge yourself to try new things.

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