Sophie is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Guatemala
Major: Hispanic Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I always knew I wanted to study abroad, and I was always pretty sure it would be in Guatemala. I was originally born in Guatemala and was adopted as a baby. My life has been far from what it would have been like in Guatemala or growing up with Guatemalan parents in the U.S. I knew the bare minimum knowledge of what Guatemalan culture was. So when the time came to start thinking about studying abroad, it came down to choosing between Guatemala and Chile. After learning more about each program, I knew Guatemala was the right choice; not only because my roots are there, but after learning more about the program itself - host families, one on one spanish, service learning - it was clear that Guatemala was the perfect program for me! :)
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Definitely the host families. I think this aspect is one of, if not the only program that offers host families instead of another form of housing. This allowed me to experience the culture of Guatemala on a much more personal level. The conversations ranged anywhere from politics, the environment, to what I did in school that day. Everyone thought they had the best family. They genuinely care about you in every way. When I got sick, my host mom adjusted my meals for that week so that I wouldn't have anything that would upset my stomach always asked how I was feeling. Aside from that, the families always make sure that you're comfortable. They love learning about you and ask what life is like in the U.S. They also are wonderful people to talk to! If I was having a rough day for whatever reason, my host mom was always there to listen and give me advice and comfort! One of the biggest things that the host families also provide the opportunity to shorten the gap of being a foreigner and tourist. One of my goals for study abroad in general was to not always feel like a tourist or outsider. The host families treat you as if you are a member of the family and offer a cultural experience that any other form of housing would not be able to provide.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It was absolutely wonderful. You grow in a way that you never could back on campus. you meet so many new people who live differently than you. it was a reminder that there is more than one way of doing life and our way is not always the right way. the host families were wonderful and caring. The classes offered were engaging and challenging. The excursions were exhausting but so much fun. My service learning experience working with kids was a joy. The directors both at the Spanish school and the program did and exceptional job. The whole experience was unforgettable!
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?
Like I said above, it definitely reminds you that there is more than one way of doing life. As far as personal development, I know have a clearer picture of who I am and where I want to be in this world. Spending for month in the country where I'm originally from wasn't always easy, especially not having my support network as available as if I were at home. But each day was filled with new experiences and things to be learned, whether it be about the country of Guatemala or myself.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
DO IT. Regardless of where you go or for how long, just go. You know well by now that the chances of you doing something like this after college are probably less than if you were to do it now. So take the leap of faith and do it. You won't regret it.