Santa Clara University

Katherine Flannery '12

International Ambassador

 

Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
 
I had a wonderful experience discovering a new culture, world, and home while studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain. Additionally, I had a wonderful experience meeting new friends, expanding my horizons, living on my own, and getting to know myself more and more throughout the process. It sounds cliché to say that studying abroad was one of the best experiences in my life, but I don't know how else to say it rather than simply. When I am passionate about something, I get excited sharing it with others. It is for this reason that I would love to become an International Ambassador and share my experiences, insights, ideas and even goofy stories with anyone who is having feelings of doubt or uncertainty concerning studying abroad. I would love to be considered!
 
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
 
I went to Spain to study Spanish, simply put. Latin America, though also enticing, I overruled because I wanted the facility and security of being able to travel from place to place and country to country in Europe. Not just any city or program in Spain, however, would do. I wanted to truly learn Spanish. As a child growing up in a partly Spanish speaking household, I would not be satisfied with programs not fully in Spanish. I already knew the basics. If I were to truly cement my Spanish education, it had to be in an all-Spanish-speaking environment and in a program whose classes would follow suit. My options, therefore, were basically narrowed down to Madrid and Salamanca. I knew about Madrid, about its capital status, immense size, and bustling opportunities. But Salamanca I had never heard of. What was this smaller city and why was it even an option? A quick search on the internet proved highly educational and attention grabbing, if not convincing. An image search cemented my interest. It seemed I had found a long buried treasure. Salamanca was a smaller college town two and a half hours outside of Madrid. It had two prestigious universities and bustled with history. It had winding roads and a golden hue. It has been called the  Oxford of Spain. I immediately fell in love.
 
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
 
I feel I had several defining moments throughout my abroad experience, but I ll focus on a simple one that was profoundly impacting and led me to the same conclusion every day: I am so blessed to be in this city. Here s what it is: my walk to class. Walking to class, contrary to what one might imagine, was something I looked forward to every day. Although about a twenty to twenty-five minute walk, I always found myself surprised at how quickly it went by. I attribute this to my views and every day bombardments of daily culture in Spain. It started out by passing two schools, a Montessori and a middle school. I was greeted in the mornings by families unloading cars, parents walking their children through gates, and middle schoolers forming clusters of gossip and excitedly sharing breaking news. I then crossed a busy street filled with cafes and elderly people watching TV or arguing over which soccer team deserved to win the night before a memory that still causes me to chuckle. These were all pleasant parts of my walk, daily examples of the culture I was becoming more and more immersed in, but they were nothing in comparison to what was in store. Two more minutes and I was there, the place I looked forward to reaching and that signaled I was halfway done with my adventure. This place was my reward for going down a narrow street that opened up into a clearing. Reaching this clearing, I found myself situated at the top of stairs by one of the cafeterias in which I was greeted by the spectacular view of the cathedral and the university. Picture golden, historic buildings with ornate towers and grandiose architecture with the sun still rising in the background on a clear, crisp day. The first time I saw this was a defining moment in my trip. I reached it half asleep, confused about where exactly I was and trying not to trip over the cobblestone. Once I saw it though, I could not get enough. If not for my usual tardiness, I would have stopped and camped out there for hours. This pivotal moment on my walks to school was what reminded me everyday how blessed, fortunate, and happy I was to be not only abroad, but in Salamanca. It was the city s way of introducing itself to me on a constant basis, demonstrating itself like a peacock with its beautiful feathers displayed, proud and dominant and imposing. It took my breath away while locking itself in my memory forever.
 
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?
 

As always, do your research and have fun! It s kind of like choosing where to go to college. See what place works for you and your needs. Ask yourself What do I want from my study abroad experience? It could be to learn another language, see another culture, take classes that otherwise would not be offered at home, make friends, go on an adventure, or simply try something new. The web is a great tool, in addition to SCU s international ambassadors and study abroad office. Look at pictures, blogs and reviews. I feel that s what I would have liked to do more of before going, because that way, from the get-go, you are able to take advantage of your location and the things offered to you. I am the kind of person who loves to explore and get to know her surroundings, which I feel I did. But had I known and been more prepared prior to traveling, I would not have taken so long to do so.