Santa Clara University

Emily Wakefield '12

International Ambassador

 

Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
 
My time abroad was by far the best experience of my life. I want to serve as an ambassador to encourage as many people as I can to make the decision to go abroad and then to offer as much guidance and insight for the journey as I can. The International Ambassadors my sophomore year were immensely helpful to me, so I would in turn like pass on my experiences that may help future study abroad students. Particularly, what to expect and how to prepare for a semester in Spain.
 
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
 
Spain was an easy choice for me, as I knew I wanted a Spanish-speaking country and I had always wanted to go to Europe. On the other hand, choosing the city I wanted to spend 4 months in was a little more challenging, especially considering there are so many different locations and programs available throughout Spain. I was a bit intimidated by the thought of a big city, and I also didn't want to be in a place where finding English-speaking people would be so easy. However, I also wanted to avoid a city that was too small. Immersion opportunities and the classes offered by each program were also something I considered. I made sure I was in a program where I could get credit for my classes and actually enjoy what I was learning about.
 
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
 
My friends and I went to Scotland for the weekend and our flight home on Sunday night was cancelled due to weather conditions. We really needed to be back for class on Monday, but the airport was a complete mess and we were told we could not get back until Tuesday night. To make a long and awful story short, we rather spontaneously hopped on a train to London and managed to get on a flight the next morning and back for class on Monday afternoon. While at the time this was incredibly stressful, I realized after how much I had grown and matured since leaving the US. If this had happened to me before, I probably would have just whined about it. I realized exactly how independent and self-sufficient I have become.
 
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 students to really research where they are going. It is important to realize that there may be significant cultural differences and that you must be willing and able to accept them. Also, make sure you are in a place that you will really enjoy, as traveling every weekend becomes tiresome and expensive. If you love where you are, you will have just as much fun exploring your own city. I also recommend living with a homestay, as it is an incredible way to become immersed in the culture and meet natives of wherever you are studying. Lastly, to someone who is on the fence and can't decide whether or not to go, I say just do it! I have yet to hear someone who regretted their decision to go abroad.