As an International Studies and Spanish double major at the College of Charleston (2016-2020), I was eager to try study abroad from the moment I arrived on campus. Beginning my Freshman year, I studied abroad in Peru for a Spring Break Excursion to study food sustainability in the Andes Mountains and to China to explore Chinese Identity in Music for a Maymester. It was truly astounding how much I learned in just a few weeks that not only expanded my academic interests but greatly diversified my perspectives on the world.
Shortly after, having been thoroughly taken over by the “study abroad bug,” I decided to spend a year in Latin America. I studied in Buenos Aires, Argentina with IES Abroad and in Santiago, Chile with the College of Charleston. Living with host families, taking classes with local professors and immersing myself in both of these major Latin American cities was truly the “life-changing” study abroad experience that everyone proclaims it to be. It was during these experiences that I began to develop my interests in Latin American indigenous languages, gained confidence in my Spanish and saw the reality of what I was learning in the classroom.
With these study abroad experiences under my belt, I graduated from the College of Charleston feeling as though I truly grasped my two majors and feeling more ready to face the world that lies off of campus, both in the United States and abroad. Since graduation, I decided to pursue a Masters in Latin American Studies, and what I have found in the process of endless applications is that each program is seeking an applicant with the hands-on, challenging and engaging experiences that you gain through study abroad. As such, I have been able to reference all of my many lessons gained during my study abroad experiences, and I feel as though it has made me a much more competitive applicant.
In the mean time, I am in Valencia, Spain teaching English through the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program. Without my previous experiences in Latin America and China, I would have never had the confidence to move to a Spanish-speaking country and create my own network internationally. (Luckily, I have already connected with several CofC alumni here in Spain :))
Study abroad encouraged me to gain independence, step outside of my comfort zone and truly learn Spanish. Not to mention, handling the difficult aspects of living abroad such as the homesickness and problem-solving in my past experiences has absolutely helped me face the challenges that come from stepping into a new culture during a global pandemic. Ultimately, all of these skills have been invaluable in my life, and I know they will continue to be as I complete my time here in Spain and move on to graduate school. So, College of Charleston’s Center for International Education, I owe you a BIG “mil gracias!”