Amy is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Guatemala
Major: Elementary Education
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I knew from when I began touring colleges that studying abroad was right for me. I'm the first of four kids, and I was ready to open my wings and fly. Deciding on which program, however, wasn't as easy. (It turns out that going to a school with 19 different semester abroad programs makes it so). After a semester of tutoring bilingual children off campus, I knew that a Spanish program was right for me. Having just discovering my major after a few extreme shifts, I was drawn to this so-called Guatemala program. It involved a one-on-one teaching experience 5 days a week, and that absolutely blew me away. To this day, that was the single most valuable thing this program brought me.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
As we all expected going into the program, there were moments during the trip when the language barrier was frustrating and limiting. Quickly, though, we adjusted to the faster speaking pace and local slang. However, there was no time that I was more nervous about my Spanish ability than when I signed up for my volunteer position. I would be leading fun, applicable activities completely in Spanish at a battered women's shelter. When my Bennie partner and I walked blindly into the room that first day, we were greeted by a 4-year-old little boy that was full of life. As we glowed with surprise and slowly tried piecing together appropriate vocabulary to respond to him, he was already babbling off little stories. This little boy became only one example of the 15 or so children and teenagers that we were blessed to get to know. Each week, we looked forward to many hugs, teaching of English and Spanish vocabulary to one another, and the most beautiful, choppy conversations.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
In my 7 years of learning Spanish before Guatemala, I never could imagine the leaps and bounds I would make in 4 months. The school CSBSJU partners with is called Celas Maya, and it was the heart of our program. Studying for about 6 hours a day seems insane to a college kid, but it was the most heartfelt, exciting, and enriching thing. We experienced the culture hands-on by having classes outside of the classroom, touring historical places, and incorporating group activities. If all goes as planned, you can bet on me returning to this incredible school for at least a couple weeks after I graduate.
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?
I honestly do not know where to begin. While abroad, I knew that something inside of me was changing, but I was unable to name it. Returning to the familiarity of my home in the U.S. 4 months later, I have slowly uncovered these changes.
To name a few:
- I am more thoughtful yet more critical.
- I have the ability to use "immersion-style" with ease to teach two elementary kids Spanish.
- I trust more in what my future holds, yet I am okay with not knowing.
I'd continue on, but I have a whole journal's worth of them.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
I say do it. Do it because the opportunity is there, and it may never be again. Do it because you will make such genuine friendships. Do it because you will challenge yourself and change yourself. Do it because I know that everyone on my trip would do it again in a heartbeat.