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Alexandra Lopiano '12
Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
I want to be there to answer any questions a student may have about studying abroad. If they want options or ideas about studying abroad I want to help them or if they are curious about whether it is worth it, I want to be there to tell them YES! I want to help them find the perfect program suited to their personality, their dreams, their class schedule, and their pocketbooks. Studying abroad is a life-changing cultured experience and our university provides so many options that students need to know are out there. I know that looking at all the options can be overwhelming, but by being an Ambassador I can help, inspire, encourage, and guide any student who even has an inkling to study abroad because the experience it a once in a lifetime moment that will provide memories, stories, and friends for the rest of their lives.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
I wanted a program that contained a music program and art history classes. I really wanted to study in Italy since a huge part of my family line comes from Italy and I had previously studied some Italian. As I searched through the options and lists I stumbled upon IES Milan. With a music program right by La Scala opera house, art history courses that take you to the art itself, and the opportunity to study Italian in Italy, this program was for me, and was moderately priced. Another advantage to Milan is its location to opportunity to travel to other countries and a main airport to fly in and out of. I was also attracted to the lack of tourists which was a preference for me; I did not want to live somewhere where tourists flooded the streets. Milan was the place for me and allowed me to experience the Italians and their culture.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
Though I had many amazing experiences in Milan, met many fabulous people in Milan, one experience that has truly changed me, was my trip to Cinqueterre. It was my third weekend in Milan, three new friends and myself decided to travel to Cinqueterre, the five cities. We were to meet up with one in our groups, mutual friends there. We laughed the whole way there and played cards. Arriving we met the others and though we had never met each other enjoyed an amazing dinner on the sea together and exploring our little town of Riomaggiore. Even when we managed to stuff in eight of us in a little condo we laughed and kindness just spread throughout, but a life changing beautiful time way only just a day away. The next day three of us decided to hike in-between and along the coastal cities. Valleys behind us coast before us, hiking where so many have hiked before, little key locks hanging from the fencing and gates. A five hour hike, five cities with just me, the coast, and the rough trail ahead. The hike was like going through a jungle, there were barely any handrails, and I would move branches out of my way weaving in and out of the valleys, the locals vineyards and farms. A storm of gray clouds were creeping over the mountain sides threatening to splash the valleys below and sparking the sea to create its tempest. This mix of shade and the sun highlighting the clouds allowed the colors in nature to be illuminated. It was as though I was traveling through another world. I love photography and this landscape allowed me to work every aspect with my camera capturing moments, memories, and dreams. As the clouds wrapped around the mountains they released some of their pressure upon the land allowing it to soak up every drop and cooling off my warm skin from the hike. Six hours later I stood in Monterosso, the fifth city, and reveled in my success. I had achieved completing a very difficult hike, I had cleared my mind and soul, I embraced nature, I saw things through a different lens, through different perspectives. I had met people from different parts of the world and I had lived an experiment that will never leave my mind or my heart.
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 would advise them to pack only two week s worth of clothes. It helps so much with packing and bringing gifts home to family. I would advise them to contact the actual program location and talk to the people who are there running the programs they will be attending. I would advise them to get international pre-paid phones. I would advise them to enjoy every bit of it and to take many photos even of little things because those everyday little things will make you smile the most later on in life.