Santa Clara University

Jordan Clarke '12

International Ambassador

 

Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
 
When I was a sophomore getting ready to study abroad, I had a lot of questions that were more specific to my location than the ones answered in the general information session. I wanted to know what it was like to adjust to a new culture, how the university classes were, and how the citizens of Greece reacted to having foreigners in their country. Luckily, my International Ambassador was able to answer all of my questions and more. She was so helpful that I didn't understand how a student could go abroad without that useful information. This is why I want to become an International Ambassador - I want future study abroad students to have every opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, and come to me for support throughout the whole process. From simple application issues to directions to the nearest Gyro stand, I want to be available for anyone who needs me. And of course I want to advocate the Greece program as much as possible!
 
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
 
I always knew that I wanted to study somewhere that applied to both my majors - Classical Studies and Economics. This decision basically narrowed down my thoughts to Greece and Italy. However, the Italian programs weren't what I was looking for, especially the more expensive ones, while the Greek program was both affordable and fascinating. The Arcadia Athens program is smaller (only about 50 students) and has a more intimate class setting. The program offers a number of classes that are "on-site", meaning the classes are taught outside of the classroom; usually at an archaeological site or museum. This was a huge factor for me. I'd been reading about the ruins and monuments of ancient Greece for two years - it was time I finally saw them! Taking notes while on top of the Acropolis with the shadow of the Parthenon on you is an unreal experience that shouldn't be missed by anyone interested in a Classics education. However, Greece also applied to my Economics major because of the financial crisis going on at the time. In fact, I was a witness of the large number of protests made by the Greeks due to the financial crisis. The program also offers a number of volunteering and internship possibilities which I would recommend to anyone.
 
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
 
This moment might not seem defining to many people, but to me it was truly one of the most rewarding. In the last week of my program, while the transportation strikes were going on, I decided to walk to the Acropolis to take pictures. I'd been there a number of times before, but I'd somehow always forgotten my camera. The walk is about a half hour if you take your time - which I always do - and so I brought my iPod with me to tune out some of the afternoon traffic. The weather was also unusually chilly, so I had thrown on a sweater I'd bought from a little boutique in my Athenian neighborhood. I was about to cross the main road to get to the tourist area when a Greek man came up to me and asked me how to get to a local cafe - in Greek. He was completely shocked when I answered him, in my stilted Greek, that I didn't speak Greek very well. "Oh," he said in English, "I thought you were Greek." This one sentence, this one mistake, made my whole study abroad experience. Since my arrival in Athens I'd always been the outcast - a pale, blonde girl with green eyes always sticks out from the thousands of dark haired, dark skinned Athenians. But somehow, in three months of living in Athens, I had come to emulate a true Athenian, and actually appeared so Greek that another Greek had asked me for directions. It was in this moment that I truly felt like I would be leaving a place I could honestly call home.
 
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?
 
The best advice I could give is to completely immerse yourself in the experience - dive into the culture, get to know the people, and try new things. I promise you will never regret a new experience, and you will always, always learn something about yourself in the process. Try the food, go to concerts, use the language, and never cheat yourself by saying that something is "only for the locals." YOU are a local as soon as you arrive - don't let anyone tell you that you aren't. You might not ever have an experience like you will while abroad, so don't let anything, or anyone, hold you back. If I could prepare differently to maximize my experience, I would definitely try to study more of the recent history of the country. Knowing the political structure, key issues, and beliefs of the people will help you interact more easily because you'll be able to bring something to the table. Locals always respect and appreciate you more if you have cared enough about their country to study and learn their history. After all, we all have one.