Catherine Zender

Catherine is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain

Major: Nutrition-Dietetics

Minor: Hispanic Studies


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

I originally chose to study abroad because it seemed like a great chance to speak a new language, travel, and immerse myself into a new culture, however I was unaware of the multitude of other aspects, lessons, and experiences that were going to come my way.
The main reason why I chose to study abroad in Spain was because I wanted to finish my Hispanic Studies minor. When deciding between countries, it eventually narrowed down to Spain because my mom studied abroad in Madrid through CSB many years ago. Her influence and love for the country definitely persuaded me into wanting to experience Spain for myself.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

My host family provided me with constant cultural experiences that have remained in my mind. When my mom came to visit me in Segovia, my host family invited her over to share a meal together. My mom speaks very little Spanish and my host family spoke very little English, so I was quite apprehensive about the language barrier. This ended up being one of the greatest cultural experiences during my semester, as I acted as translator between my host family and my mom. We laughed about the difficulty to converse and the experience as a whole. By the end of the meal, my mom was telling them how similar our two families are and my host mom was sharing Spanish recipes, cooking instructions, and life advice. It made it even better I was able to show my mom all that I had learned and she was able to see me interact with my host family. Overall, it was a great cultural learning experience to look back on and something I'll never forget.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

As a very difficult question to answer, my study abroad experience was unforgettable. I went into the semester thinking it was going to be a grand time and amazing journey, which it was, but it was so much more. It had its ups and downs and I had my good days and bad. There were many days I didn't want to speak Spanish, interact with anyone, and all I could think about was flying home. However, those days were numbered and seemed to pass as the semester went by. I learned, I laughed, I loved, and I'll never forget the semester the Segovia provided me with.

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 biggest benefits of studying abroad was the proficiency I was able to achieve in the Spanish Language. Throughout the semester, I experienced immense improvement with my comprehension, speaking, and writing. The full immersion is an experience unlike anything else and something that CSBSJU study abroad does an excellent job of ensuring.

Beyond the language aspect, I made amazing friendships and had a family that I was lucky enough to call my own for four months. It's difficult to describe the connection I had with them and the relationships I started while in Spain, but it is hands-down one of the biggest benefits of spending a semester abroad.

Studying abroad has broadened my horizons and taught me about the world as a whole. I met friends from countries around the world, with backgrounds very different from mine. I learned about the people and culture beyond the United States of America in a hands-on way and experienced life beyond the classroom.

Spending the semester in Spain has definitely motivated me to work hard this coming year during my final year at CSBSJU in order to lay the groundwork for my future. I would love to find an opportunity post-graduation to utilize my Spanish proficiency and my Nutrition major, potentially in the Peace Corps.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

First of all, I would absolutely recommend the opportunity to any CSBSJU student who is considering the opportunity. I would recommend spending some time to ensure that they are choosing the program that is right for them, personally.

After they have decided on the program, I would advise them to set aside any preconceived ideas of the city, country, and study abroad in general, and to truly take the experience for what it is. If you put into it what you want to get out of it, it will undoubtedly be an amazing ride!