Santa Clara University

Lilya Ouksel '12

International Ambassador

Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?

My study abroad experience was absolutely life-changing, and I'd like to help other students as they prepare to go abroad as well. This will help me to keep my experience fresh in my mind and make it a part of my life at Santa Clara. It will also allow me to give back after having such an amazing time. There are definitely tips I'd like to share that would have been helpful to know, as well as things my location-specific ambassador shared with me that I want to pass along!
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
As an engineering major, I had only a few options to choose from, and all were English-taught programs. I knew immediately that I wanted it to be somewhere I'd never been, somewhere I could have an entirely new experience. I wanted it to be a place with a lot of diversity and culture as well as rich history. I also wanted it to be fun! I chose a place smack in the city so I could learn about all walks of life and still be able to take off somewhere and relax on vacation time. Cape Town was the perfect choice.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
I spent a weekend doing a homestay in one of the townships just outside Cape Town. While Cape Town is diverse, it has the feel of a lot of big cities, but township life is different from anything I've ever known. The poverty is heart-wrenching, but the atmosphere of the community is inspiring. There is a sense of togetherness that is hard to find in the U.S. Small children would run up to us in the street and climb on us like we were jungle gyms, everyone, young and old, would beg to have their picture taken with us, lamb's head was offered to us to eat and music seemed to follow us everywhere. I'll never forget the way rich and poor in South Africa know how to celebrate life and live in the moment. For a nation that has faced such hatred and cruelty, it really knows what the important things are in life. I try to remember now how little people had there and yet how richly they lived. It makes it easier to keep from living a materialistic life.
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?

Document every moment in any way you know how. Take millions of pictures, write everything down, record strange or unique sounds and make friends! It's difficult sometimes to step out of your comfort zone but the more you do this abroad, the more powerful your experience will be. For those of you going to Cape Town... it will be COLD when you get there and HOT when you leave. Pack appropriately.