Anna is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Guatemala
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Coming into college, I always knew I wanted to study abroad. Actually, the reputation of study abroad programs here at CSBSJU helped me make my decision to attend this college.
I'm not going to lie, deciding on a program was not easy for me. I knew my choice was between the 3 semester programs in Spanish-speaking countries, but I had to weigh a lot of the pros and cons of each program before deciding. Ultimately, Guatemala was the best fit for me because of the volunteer aspect it offered and how the program was designed. Guatemala has a unique one-on-one structure which really helped me excel in the Spanish language.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One specific cultural experience I had that has made a lasting impression on me was volunteering at the orphanage. It was amazing to feel so much love from such little human beings I barely knew. These children were some of the happiest I have ever met although they had less of everything. They had sufficient clothing and food, but were lacking human contact. This specific part of the program changed me as a person. I learned to appreciate every little thing I have in my life. Whether it be the constant love from my family or a piece of candy I have the money to buy, I will never take that for granted. If I could go back and visit those kids at the orphanage tomorrow, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Guatemala is simply a beautiful country in every aspect. As soon as I stepped foot off the plane, I knew I was going to fall in love with Guatemala. I was nervous to say the least, but it was the best feeling to be put outside my comfort zone. A few words to describe my experience are exhilarating, educating, and life-changing. The moment I arrived in my host city, I was experiencing so many feelings.. it was great. I got situated with my host family and began the immersion process. In the Guatemala program, there are two phases. The first being a single one-on-one class for 5 hours a day for 5 weeks and the second being content courses and volunteering for the last 10. I loved the setup of the program and every day was a new adventure.
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?
Studying abroad in a third world country definitely opened my eyes to so many things. One thing in particular is realizing what is important in life. I learned to live simple that that a simple life is the best life. Before studying abroad, there is nothing to compare to which led me to believe that my way of life was the only correct way. The process of cultural immersion assisted in the way I viewed life and allowed me to grow in so many other areas. This experience has helped me learn who I am as a person and offered me an unmatched sense of culture that will help me in my future career. I am in the process of applying to veterinary school and have referenced my experience in Guatemala in almost every question of the application. I gained new skills and practiced previously possessed skills in a new way.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
My advice for any student considering to study abroad is to just do it. There will always be excuses to not study abroad, but it is truly the best decision you will ever make. Of course, I am biased to my program, but I am positive that whatever country you study abroad in, you will love. It becomes a part of you and you find out so much about yourself. For lack of words, studying abroad is amazing.