Katherine Claeys is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain.
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad in the Spain 2012 program because I am a Hispanic Studies major and it has always been my dream to go to Spain. I also had friends from the dance team who had traveled with the Spain 2011 group and they told me all of their wonderful stories. Since I did not want to miss out on the dance team during the fall semester, I felt that Spain was the program that best fit my schedule.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
To me, the cultural experience that had the greatest impression would be living with a host family. There are several other cultural aspects that made a lasting impression on me such as, taking classes that were only taught in Spanish and attending a university with students from all over Europe, but having the opportunity to live with a host family greatly enhanced my cultural experiences while in Spain. I feel that living with host families is one of the best things about this program. Through living with host families, the students not only learn about the Spanish culture through an academic, but also through a life lens. This aspect of the program really helped me improve my Spanish and has really made me appreciate my native culture while becoming more accepting, understanding, and welcoming in other cultures.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It is next to impossible to put my experience into words. My semester abroad is by far one of the best semesters I have experienced in college. I absolutely adored my host family and loved every experience I had while abroad. There were challenges that occurred along the way, but having to work through those in a foreign country only added to my experience. I loved my time abroad and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think about Spain and wish I could go back. This program helped me to grow in so many ways and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to travel to Spain.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
One of the benefits of spending a semester abroad is simply the time frame. I found that it takes some time to get comfortable with using and speaking Spanish all day, every day. It took about a good month before I started to feel comfortable with my Spanish. So students really need to have the semester long program to really learn and improve their spanish.
Another benefit of doing a semester abroad program is the bonds you make with the other CSB/SJU students that you travel with in your program. Looking back on my time abroad, I have made life long friends through this program that I may not have made otherwise; you create a different bond with the student you travel with and create a family that no other students on campus will be able to share.
I feel that studying abroad has made me a more confident, strong, and well-rounded person. It helped me academically with my Spanish, personally through living in a completely different cultural, and professionally through improving my interaction with individuals from a cultural different from my own.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
My advice to CSB/SJU students who are considering to travel abroad is to not consider it but to do it. I was nervous before my travels, but now I can't imagine my life without my experiences. I would suggest they consider their interests, what they are looking to getting out of their study abroad experience, and to select a program that interests THEM. I would suggest that they chose a program because they are personally interested in the program and not because all of their closest friends are going on the program. The final thing I would suggest is that when preparing to travel, leave with your expectations open to all possibilities. It is important to have high hopes for your program, but it is even more important to be realistic and realize that there will be ups and downs along the way. And finally. . . get ready for the time of their life!!!
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