Caitlin Swanson

Caitlin is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Austria

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
In 2008, I spent a month in Germany with my high school. It was such an amazing experience, that I knew I wanted to study abroad in college, which is also one of the reasons I chose CSBSJU.
The biggest reason I chose Austria was definitely the language. I took German all through high school and decided to minor in it once I came to CSBSJU. I also loved that Austria was in the center of Europe, meaning I would have plenty of travel opportunities.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
I was taking a train from Stuttgart to Salzburg during our fall break and when it stopped in Munich, a group of maybe 12 American students boarded. Before, people had been having relatively quiet conversations with their neighbors but after the Americans boarded, they became the only thing you could hear and I was slightly embarrassed for them. It was really eye-opening for me on two levels: one, it was really the first time I felt more European than American; and two, I realized how much I had changed. I'm sure that our group, myself included, would have acted the same way at first, but after actually living in the Austrian culture had changed and become more respectful of others.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It was really eye-opening. You are literally thrust in a different culture, but it's the best thing that will happen to you. It was such an amazing way to travel, to learn about another culture, and to grow as a person. I learned how to cook raw meat and how to read the train schedule in a few different languages. I grocery shopped for myself for the first time ever and took a bus, three trains, and a plane by myself from Italy to Germany. Without a doubt, my experiences and what I gained on this trip will stay with me forever.

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?
You will definitely learn about yourself, through both the ups and downs of the trip. I became more flexible and learned to let go of the plan when it isn't working, which is something I find hugely beneficial.
This trip also allowed me to travel around Europe. It really showed me how to respect other cultures and ways of doing things. Just because something might seem backwards doesn't mean it's wrong or even necessarily that weird. Studying abroad encouraged me to think in new ways and apply what I experienced abroad to my life back in Minnesota.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Travel as much as you can! My friends and I took tons of day trips. The small towns surrounding Salzburg had so much to offer. Also, be flexible! That's something I wasn't too great at when I first arrived but learned quickly. It made things a lot better and a lot more fun. You can experience so much more with that mindset.

 Do you have questions about studying abroad in Austria? Email Caitlin at