John Nguyen

John is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Guatemala

Major: Economics and Hispanic Studies

Minor: Latino/Latin American Studies


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

Before starting my time at St. John’s, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in some capacity. After taking a tour in the summer at CSB/SJU, one of the tour guides asked if I was planning to study abroad. He also asked me if I had plans to go into a program, and I said “a spanish-speaking” country. He replied that he went on the Spain program and went into a little bit of detail regarding his experience. Which was exciting to picture in my mind, so after the tour, I went on the Center for Global Education’s website for some information about the programs that they had to offer. A few months later, I was taking the HISP 212 class with Roy Ketchum. Throughout the semester, he gave plugs about the program that he directs--Guatemala. After a while, I was slowly getting convinced to go into the program after a few meetings with him. When the emails started to be sent out on behalf of the CGE that’s when I wanted to apply to the program.                               

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

At the language school that students from CSB/SJU studied at for the semester have weekly “conferencias” that give opportunities to current students and teachers to have an in-depth snapshot about the learnings and fundamental roots of Guatemalan culture. Within itself, Guatemala is a very diverse country with having countless mayan groups and mixed ethnicities. One theme of a conferencia was about mayan ceremonies. Everyone gathered together in an open space at the school and had a mayan sacerdote, or priest, perform a cultural ceremony. Despite being almost more than an hour, everything about it was fascinating. The materials, the people, and the simple reverence between the sacerdote and the individuals present was inspiring and internally tranquilizing. As much as the saying goes, the more you learn about something else, the more you learn about yourself as well.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Overall, I felt content and extremely glad that I had studied abroad. At first, my sentiments after being accepted and before getting on the plane consisted of trepidation and anxiety. Naturally, I thought about how was I going to survive being in a country that I have no experience (aside from my spanish, which was still developing) being in and counting down the days until I traveled back home. When I landed my feet in Guatemala, after each day, I was more accustomed to where I was and the space that I inhabited. With this, my anxiety and doubts eventually cleared away.

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?

After being abroad, I believe that some benefits about being abroad to study are personal growth, intercultural development, and educational attainment. Living in a host family and being outside of the environment that I was used to, compelled me to be more independent than the time I spent away from campus. I identified what I liked and disliked and also saw what I could do personally.

Studying abroad in a foreign country assisted in my development personally, academically, and professionally more ways than one. Personally, I had developed more social skills because of my dependence on spanish to essentially survive in a non-english-speaking country. Academically and professionally, I was able to prioritize the assignments and projects that I had to do and when I had to do them, because in order to professionally develop the language, one needs to have a mastery over it--and one can do that by practicing at home and elsewhere. In addition to this, I had advanced my note-taking skills after my need to document every observation that I had--at school or at another place.

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

I would tell the student(s) if they’re considering going abroad to take advantages of the resources that CSB/SJU and CGE has to offer. Even if you may not want to go on a full semester abroad or that it won’t be possible to given one’s academic plan, there are a variety of smaller terms to consider. Additionally, it would be better to be educated on a decision before making it. Many feel deterred from studying abroad because of the financial implications that come along with traveling out of the United States; however, there are opportunities like loans, grants, or scholarships that can prepare a more realistic “Study Abroad.”