Michaela Duellman

­­­­Michaela is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain

Major: Nutrition

Minor: Hispanic Studies


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

In high school, I became passionate about becoming bilingual as I began learning Spanish, and I decided it would be my goal to one day be fluent. As I toured St. Ben’s as a senior, I learned about the great study abroad programs that our school has to offer and I knew that this would be the best way to achieve my goal. By studying abroad, I would also be able to fulfill my minor in Hispanic Studies. I chose Spain over the other two Spanish-based programs because I love to travel and have always wanted to visit Europe. This way, I could easily travel to other countries during the semester and truly get the worldly experience I was looking for.

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

I think one of the biggest adjustments I had to make during my semester abroad was becoming more confident in my speaking skills. At first, I was very nervous to speak Spanish and was afraid at times that I would mess up. My host mom could definitely tell I was nervous the first couple of days when we would talk during our first meals together. She would always say, “Tranquila!” in an effort to let me know that I could relax and feel free to speak my mind. As a week or two passed by, I began to feel more comfortable and began to relax more, trying not to limit what I said and just try to talk as many times as I could. By the end of the semester, I rarely had to ask my host mom to repeat what she was saying and I felt I had become a much stronger speaker than from the day I had gotten there. It may take some time to feel completely comfortable using Spanish, but once you realize that it’s okay to make mistakes, you will be practicing way more and improving as time goes on, without even realizing.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

I can honestly say that spending a semester in Segovia was the best time of my life. Spain was such an amazing program to be a part of. I learned so much from taking the entirety of my classes in Spanish, as well as living with a host family. Weekend excursions were also another incredible way to learn about the country and Spanish culture. The majority of the weekends we were able to explore a new city of Spain as a group, which allowed us to travel and experience the wide array of cultures throughout our host country. Another important aspect of my experience was becoming friends with some amazing Bennies and Johnnies. I think sharing this experience and the memories with your group is something you cherish at the end of it all, even if you didn’t know anybody the first day you arrived.

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 benefits of studying abroad for me were enhancing my Spanish skills, making new friends, becoming more cultured, and growing as a person. I greatly improved my proficiency in conversating, as well as reading and writing in Spanish. With a variety of classes to take, I was able to learn more about Spain’s history, current events, culture and language. By living with a host family, I learned a lot about the differences between American and Spanish households and mindsets, which I found to be very interesting. And of course, living in a foreign country, in a different time zone, and speaking a different language all help you become more independent, feel confident in meeting new people, and prepare for being an adult, which can be intimidating at times.

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

My first piece of advice is to do it. I don’t know anyone who regrets studying abroad; even more, everyone loved it so much and would go back in a heartbeat. My second piece of advice, if you already have decided to study abroad, is to take advantage of all the opportunities you have while abroad. Be open to trying new things and learning about new cultures; that’s what will make your experience even more rewarding.