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Alicia Hoepfner '12
Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
As an International Ambassador I wish to encourage students to study abroad in any program. I feel the experience was one everyone needs to experience. I want to share my experience while abroad to encourage others to do the same. I want no one to feel discouraged from studying abroad. In my search for a study abroad program, I came across a few people who did not think I could be a double major, study abroad, and graduate in four years. I proved these people wrong, and I want other students to never be discouraged again. I am a Biology and Economics double major and I found a program that allowed me to study what I love while in a foreign country. I loved every minute of it and I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to study abroad just like I did; especially biology majors or double majors who often believe they cannot study abroad since there are many requirements that must be fulfilled.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
When looking into study abroad I looked at many programs and locations; anywhere from Denmark for the medical science, to the program in Brazil for the drastic change in culture. After looking into many programs and attending some informational meetings, it was the Syracuse program in Madrid that really stuck out to me. I choose the program because they offered many Economics classes, home stay housing and intermediate level Spanish classes, not Catalan like many of the southern cities in Spain. Looking back, I believe any of the Syracuse programs are some of the best. One truly gets their moneys worth with the two week orientation seminar all around Europe, the programs throughout the year, and the great professors. Being in Madrid was the best decision because I became even closer to being fluent in Spanish. I improved my Spanish not just because of the classes I was in daily, but the daily run-ins with people in the street and especially talking to my señora every day.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
There are many moments that stand out to me in the four months I was abroad. Focusing on just two, my trips to Morocco and the Canary Islands had the largest impact on my life. I pride myself on these two trips because many people have not been to these places. They were the best two trips I ever had. In Morocco I lived in a home stay and learned what the household in Morocco was like. We had a whole family, a toddler, a baby, and a mom and a dad. It was a full house, but so much fun. I got to see just how they interacted and I quickly realized how similar they were to our families in America. They still sit around a table and discuss how their day was, while at the same time attempting to get the two year old to keep food in his mouth. Also on the trip we met some native Moroccans who taught us the culture and just how far Moroccans have come politically and economically, and their hopes for the future. I was given the chance to relate this all back to many of my Economics classes, a chance that would not have arisen if I had not taken these classes abroad. The Canary Islands was my biology class field trip. I learned how to scuba dive and I learned about the Marine ecosystems surrounding Spain. What made this trip so memorable was my professor who knew so much, while at the same time encouraged us to have fun. On days we were not scuba diving he would take us on small field trips around the island where we could really learn about the environment of the island. Every place on Earth is so different, and learning about a small island off the coast of Africa inspired me to learn more about other environments. The trip also fortified the friendships I made while abroad and inspired me to help the environment now and in whatever field I go into in the future.
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?
I first want students not to fear anything. I feel it can be a nerve racking time before one leaves, but forgetting something is not that bad. It can always be sent over seas or even bough while abroad. Another thing to remember is do not be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, make new friends, explore the city on our own, and see places you would have never imagined. I really want to encourage students to go to countries or cities they would have never imagined. Many people visit Rome or Pairs (two places that are still very important to see) every year, but not many people visit places such as Morocco or the Canary Islands. Last but certainly not least, do write a journal or blog. I realize now, not writing everything down would have been horrible. I loved writing in my journal and blog, although it took time, it was vitally important. Just after a week of getting back I felt the last four months of my life were a dream and many of my friends from abroad said they also felt the same way. The blog I wrote along with the many pictures I took really helped me remember it was not all just a dream and that it was a defining moment in my life.