Mary Hooley

Mary is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain

Major: English Literature and Hispanic Studies


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

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to immerse myself in a Spanish speaking country to achieve my lifelong goal of Spanish fluency. I also chose Spain because it was a perfect epicenter of culture and a good spot to travel elsewhere to learn more about the world and the people that inhabit it.                            

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

Living with a host family in Spain, you have to get accustomed to "odd" meal times and daily schedules. Learning how to stay up late for dinner and how to converse at meal times was very simple, but impactful. These moments with my family are where I learned the most Spanish and felt most like a member of the family/citizen of Segovia.

My group also learned a traditional flamenco dance which served to be fun and culturally informative. I'll never forget how difficult learning the dance was, but how rewarded I felt after the performance.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

There are not enough boxes on an application in which I can encompass my experience. The love I have for Spain and for all of the people I met there, as well as for the bennies and johnnies in my group is unmeasurable. Living in Segovia helped me realize the beauty in every single day and made me realize my power in the world. I was made much more independent through my travel, more understanding of others through living with my host family, and more in love with different walks of humanity than I could have believed possible. Living in a country where they do not speak your language is humbling and rewarding, and yes, terrifying at times. But the fact that I was able to live there and thrive speaks measures about what CSBSJU study abroad can do for an individual. It makes you brave and empathetic, while ensuring that you have the most fun of your life.

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?

It enhances perspective of the world. Being abroad shows you the differences and similarities of many different cultures, which in turn makes you a more empathetic and understanding person.
It promotes self-reliance. Traveling alone or in a small group in a country that doesn't speak English? Catching last minute planes? Lost with no cell service? No problem.
It strengthens community. Your bennies and Johnnies abroad ARE your family over there. Classmates that you would have never met are now your best friends that you will have for life.

Personally, I feel as if I have gained fluency which will aid me in my Hispanic Studies major, communication skills between peers and supervisors which will benefit me in the workforce, and memories that will last me a lifetime.

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

Do it. Take the plunge even if you are scared to leave family and friends because the experiences you have, the people you meet, and the lessons you learn about yourself are some of the most extraordinary and valuable that you will have in your life.