Ryan O'Gara

Ryan is an ambassador who studied abroad in Chile
Major: Biology

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

I chose to study abroad because it sounded like a great opportunity for me to step outside of my comfort zone and really push myself to grow as an individual. I also am planning on going to Medical School in the future and I think it is crucial to have at least an understanding of Spanish. Because of this I knew I wanted to go on a program that had a Spanish speaking aspect of it and from the research I did Chile seemed like the best fit for me. From what I heard and from what people told me you really build a community with the others in your group and with your host family.

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

The biggest cultural experience that I had was just living with my host family. I could talk about Rosy and Manuel until the end of time. When we first arrived it didn't feel real to me that I was about to be in this country for the next 4 months or so. It was terrifying for me and I was nervous who I would be spending these next four months with and what they were going to be like. I consider myself very fortunate to have been with the family that I was. They treated me as their very own son from the very first day, which is something I did not expect at all. They took me out with them to a restaurant, or to dinner with their children, as their children were in their 30's. Just like any mother, Rosy worried about me all the time. Every time I would leave the house, she would always tell me to have fun, but be careful, whether that was going out of the country or just to the beach. Even now I receive messages from my family members there asking how I am doing, and Rosy still wondering if I am doing well. I could not have asked for a better family, and I plan on one day fulfilling my host mom's request that I return when I am married so she can approve of my wife.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

It was incredibly challenging for me to start to speak in Spanish with native speakers and not to be afraid to make a mistake, or saying the wrong word. My family also really challenged me to be myself and to grow. Several times my mom would talk to me after a meal, starting off simple, about my day or what I was going to do over the weekend just to get me to open up. About halfway or more through the trip I realized that these little talks had grown to sometimes an hour or more. Overall my experience could not have been better. I have zero regrets about deciding to go abroad or about the experience while I was in Chile. It was difficult at first, but the benefits and the life experience definitely outweighed the hardships

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 main benefit was improving my Spanish. Learning to both understand and speak the language on a daily, conversational basis. When I arrived there my family teased me a little because I would only say "Si" or "No" (which means "yes" or "no" in Spanish), but after a month or so I found myself having entire conversations in their language. I think this aspect was really important because in class here, at least for myself, you only really get to read and write and there is not a lot of speaking until you get to the upper division classes. I never really spoke consistently until I was abroad and that improved my Spanish tremendously. Going abroad really helped me to open up as an individual and express my ideas in classroom, socialize more and be more confident in my Spanish ability and as a person.

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

First of all I would say if you are only considering studying abroad right now, you should definitely take the risk and do it! Second a person need to study the programs and see which one is the best fit for them. I would recommend if the person has been studying a language, that you go on a program that uses that language or at least has the opportunity to use that language. Lastly you really need to budget your money and start saving now. These trips can be expensive, and although there is financial aid available, I would still start saving as much money as one can.






Do you have questions about studying abroad in Chile?  Email abroad@csbsju.edu.