Marina Cruz

Marina is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile

Major: Global Business Leadership & Hispanic Studies

Minor: Latino/Latin American Studies


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

Study abroad has always been something that I've always looked forward to. In middle school I would tell my parents how excited I am to spend time abroad during college, on college tours I would tell the tour guides that study abroad was something that I was going to do, so when it came down to pick where I wanted to spend my college years, study abroad was definitely on my list of criteria. CSB/SJU's strong abroad program was one of the main reasons I chose to come here, I wanted to fulfill my lifelong dream. After deciding to pursue a major in Hispanic Studies, I knew I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country. I really wanted the South American experience, and I wanted a program that would very much immerse me in the culture. Chile was the perfect fit.

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

My first night with my host family, I was so nervous, I still wasn't used to listening to and talking in Spanish so I wasn't understanding very much nor was I offering anything to the conversation. Honestly, I just wanted to hide in my room. However, my host family was so nice and completely understanding, letting me go from dinner early to unpack and get my new room organized. At the request of my host mom, her granddaughter came by a little later, and knowing that I was a little homesick already made a "traditional American dessert," cinnamon rolls. We were pretty close in age, and my host mom figured it might be easier to acclimate to my new home with someone that I could relate to a bit more. The hospitality of the Chileans is honestly second to none, and this is a perfect example. My first night was still hard, and nothing was going to change that, but having someone to laugh and eat cinnamon rolls with made it so much easier.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My four and a half months abroad were better than I could have ever imagined. It wasn't sunshine and rainbows every day, but I had the best opportunity to learn so much about myself and what I am capable of. My study abroad experience gave me 17 new best friends, an entire family that is consistently inviting me back down to stay with them, a chance to meet so many Chileans and other exchange students from all over the world, and a place that I will forever consider a home. Choosing to study abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Viña del Mar is an amazing city, and I am so grateful for the four months I got to call it home.

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?

The biggest thing study abroad gave me was personal development. It was my first major trip abroad, and also my first time spending significant time away from my home and my family. I had to learn to exist on my own and I really had to grow into myself. I know so much about myself; what I am capable of, what I'm not capable of, how to advocate for myself, and so much more. It also greatly contributed to my academic development as well. Being a Global Business Leadership and Hispanic Studies double major, I was lucky to be able to take classes that advanced both of my majors in Chile. It especially allowed me to exercise the global part of my Global Business Leadership major. Taking business classes with not only Chileans, but international students from all over the world was so much more beneficial than learning about the business mindsets of those in other countries, I got to live it and hear it with my own ears. As for my professional development, this program was amazing. Obviously, it looks good on a resume, but it did so much more than that. I was able to establish and grow a network with people from all over the world, I got to live first-hand how much different one culture can be from the next, and it's something that I can discuss in interviews that showcases so many skills.

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

Honestly the best advice I can give is to just do it. While study abroad has always been something that I have looked forward to, I was incredibly scared when I left for Chile. Just know that you will never be alone and that there is support all around you should you choose to use it. Don't let your fears keep you from what is sure to be one of the best experiences to date. When else are you going to get the chance to live in another country for four months? It is the best experience of my life to date, and I cannot encourage others enough to do it.