Santa Clara University

Alessandra Zanassi '12

International Ambassador


Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
I am so pleased that I opted to take advantage of the study abroad option while studying here at Santa Clara. It is honestly one of the greatest experiences I have yet to encounter, and I am eager to encourage those thinking of taking part in the program to in fact do so. I know I would have immensely regretted not having gone. Also,prior to departing, when I was attending study abroad meetings, there were no students from my program serving as ambassadors. Though we were able to ask questions to other students who had lived in Italy, questions regarding my specific program remained unclear and I was a little lost. Having been through the program, and having recently returned, I feel I have a timely understanding of issues that may be of interest/concern to those students planning to participate in a similar program.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
My family heritage is Italian, and growing up, my family's cultural history was always a significant aspect of our time together. When I became old enough to understand my culture more clearly, I wanted to embark on a journey to my roots. I wanted to return to where my grandparents had called home, and immerse myself in a completely different lifestyle. Of all the Italy options, Rome seemed to be the most fitting for me personally. I wanted to be in a central city, in the midst of all the excitement and bustling adventure of the Italian way of life.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
There are so many experiences that I encountered that were memorable for various reasons. So many times did I have to use creative or unconventional ways of thinking or acting to make a situation work. One of my favorite memories, though it may not appear as significant at first, occurred very early on in the program. Still getting used to our surroundings, we were not quite certain as to the location of a restaurant where we were to meet some friends. I approached a group of Italian individuals who were hanging out and chatting, and asked them if they knew of the restaurant. After attempting to make sense of one another, with their limited English, and my limited Italian, they told me that they had lived there all their lives and had never heard of such a place! They then took out their phones and put in the name of the restaurant, found it on a map online, and tried to give me directions. When I looked puzzled, they told me, Don t worry, we all go! and within moments, I was walking through the streets of Rome with a new entourage of about 7 Italian friends. When we found the location, it turned out to be closed, so our group joined with theirs, and we ended up having one of the most entertaining nights of our study abroad experience. Though we were half way around the world, so far from home, this small exhibition of kindness went a long way, and proved to us that though we may be of different cultures, genuinely good people exist wherever you may go, and attempting to make sense of various cultures can open a whole new world of understanding.
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 first off tell them to have no qualms about their interest in applying for a study abroad program. The several months that they will spend in another country will be very different from what they may be used to but ultimately, you come to learn much about yourself as a person when you embark on new adventures and face various challenges, though much fun is to be had along the way. There will be people to help you along in the process as well, which was something that I was hesitant about. Also, the ideas for what to pack, and how to pack as well as ways of traveling out of your study abroad location, how you will come to interact with the people of a very different culture, and the best ways to keep contact with your family back home are all things that would be advantageous for prospective study abroad students to hear from a veteran attendee of such a program.