STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI STORY
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I decided to go abroad for the chance to learn hands on. I knew that I liked Spanish, but I didn't want to just study from a book. I had been to Honduras toward the end of high school and it changed my life forever. Seeing people who lived differently from me and learning about new cultures brought me to life and I wanted to soak in every chance to travel I could get.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
Studying abroad seemed impossible at first because I was going to school on scholarship. I had no idea so many scholarships existed to study abroad. Before I left for my semester abroad, I worked all the time, filled out applications for scholarships and tried to prepare the best I could.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
To some extent, you can never be fully prepared because nothing is ever like you plan or expect when you go abroad. However, I think that was the best advice I received-- to just be ready for changes in plans and be prepared to be pushed out of your comfort zone.
Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
Being abroad helped me to identify with those who feel like outsiders at my university and in my city. I felt so aware of my light skin and American accent all the time, but especially in the cities. I hated how silly I sounded trying to speak Spanish and how people assumed I fit some mold just because of my country of origin. So many people were so gracious and welcoming to me and it changed the way I want to treat internationals in my city. I want them to know that they are so valuable and that I truly want to learn about their culture.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
My travels abroad have changed the whole course of my life. I started college wanting to go into Nutrition and came out with a degree in Journalism and Spanish. I began to explore my creativity and passion for telling stories and learning about people. Learning a new language opened a whole new world for me. I realized that there must be a million stories I am missing out on because I can't understand them.
As soon as I graduated, I worked in a middle school as a translator. It blew my mind that there were so many internationals right in my city. I loved being on the front lines and having the chance to learn from them and hear their stories. I currently work for a non profit that works with local refugees from Nepal and internationally with the vulnerable in Kenya and Uganda. Even if I am living in the states, working with other cultures brings me so much life.
If you would have told me five years ago that I would be starting Graduate School for Spanish Literature this year, I would have told you that you are insane. However, here I am, and I can't wait to deepen my knowledge of this language and culture.
Author: Hannah Johnson