Erin Martin '24

Programs: Spain Spring Semester & Chiapas, Mexico Spring Embedded

Major: Hispanic Studies

Minor: Secondary Education

Athletic Team/Club: CSB Cross Country

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

One of the few things I knew before starting my college career was how badly I wanted to study abroad and experience a new country and culture. I decided on going to Mexico and Spain because they are both Spanish-speaking countries, but both have rich and diverse cultures to learn about firsthand.

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

One of the cultural experiences I had in Chiapas was visiting an alternative school for indigenous youth called CIdeCI. It was inspiring to see a program that was empowering a minority group within Chiapas (and Latin America) to invest in future leaders of Native communities. In Spain, the most impactful cultural experience for me was Semana Santa, where practicing and cultural Catholics celebrate the Passion of Christ in the streets through processions of penance. It was unlike any other Holy Week I have ever experienced!

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

In both study abroad experiences, I had the privilege to live with a host family and share stories, meals, and culture each day. Having host siblings and parents makes it easier to learn the language and cultural aspects of the country, but it also helps you to feel connected and grounded to the community. A lot of my favorite memories are moments I connected deeply with my host family.

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?

Short-term study abroad programs are a great option for students who want exposure to a new language or culture, but who might have reservations about missing an entire semester or being away from home that long. They are also easier to finance and could be just as impactful! On the flipside, there is something magical that occurs through the beauty and struggle of living in a new country for an entire semester. You have the opportunity to create new habits, really take ownership of the city, and form deep relationships with the people you meet.

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

Research and reflect on why you want to study abroad and what your goals are for your time there. Do not plan too heavily-just enough to feel comfortable. You never know what serendipitous moments may arise simply from being open to new and unpredictable experiences. Be intentional about how you finance your study abroad and research free/cheap activities you can do that also immerse you in the culture. There is a lot often hiding right under your nose within the study abroad sites which you only need to ask or poke around a little bit to discover.