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Caitlin Millar '12
Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
When I was preparing to study abroad, I didn't have the luxury of a fellow SCU student who had traveled to my program. My friends were all extremely excited after meeting with their respective ambassadors- I had no one. I was so nervous and upset before leaving for abroad that I almost didn't go. I am so thankful that I decided to go through with it, because studying in New Zealand was a life changing experience. I want to be able to share that excitement with (the very few) students who also choose to study in New Zealand, help answer questions, and reassure them of their decision.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
I always knew that I wanted to study in New Zealand because I wanted to do something unique. Nearly everyone I know went to Europe, but I didn't want to follow in their footsteps. I wanted my own experience. I wanted to take a risk and study abroad alone, and I wanted to do it in the land of extremes. The landscape and the possibilities in New Zealand are endless. Of the country's universities, the main deciding factor for Otago was the courses that would transfer back to SCU. Luck was on my side, because Otago is a very well facilitated, and probably the best program in New Zealand (maybe I am biased...?), as well as the top university in the country.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
Although I have to say it was the people I met in New Zealand who really shaped my experience, one moment that stands out for me was the day I bungee jumped one of the highest drops in the world. I am deathly afraid of heights and I didn't think I was going to sign up for it. One goal I set for myself was to either bungee jump or sky dive while I was in the land of extreme sports. Days before I was set to jump, I spent sleepless nights fearing the day. But when the moment came, I managed to calm myself, and without hesitation, leap! Everything happened so fast, and I realized that I could conquer my fears if only I set my mind to it. Ever since that day, I have not allowed myself to fear anything. New Zealand became a place of firsts- including my first time skiing in a foreign country, my first time driving stick shift and driving on the other side of the road, my first survival of a 7.1 earthquake (I was in Christchurch the time of the quake), etc. My experience definitely built character, but I realized it doesn't just happen on its own, it was up to me.
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?
First and foremost, I would suggest students research the logistics of their location- such as what to pack. My friends and I all packed wrong for the weather in Dunedin, and the move would have been a lot easier if I had the proper clothing for the cold. Some items are easier to bring, while others are easier to buy on location. Figure out what they are before you leave home. I would also remind prospective study abroad students that while it may seem like everything is happening too fast, just relax and keep an open mind. Your life is about to change entirely; welcome the change. You will make friends from all over the world, fall in love with a new country, and become a global citizen. You will also grow up a lot. It's all very exciting, so thrust yourself in head first and don't waste a single moment!