Santa Clara University

Michelle Davidson '13

International Ambassador

Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador?
I would love to help other students prepare for their experience abroad because I had an incredible but sometimes challenging time in Cape Town. I remember how nervous I was to go, but there was so much to look forward to. Those who want to go abroad in the future will have their own worries and uncertainties about leaving, but I think it is important for people to understand how rewarding the experience can be. I would like to help students through the process and prepare them for the experience of a lifetime.
Deciding factor for studying abroad?               
I started the process by looking at programs in Africa because I had a really strong desire to go there. I also hoped to do a program that focused on service, and the Marquette program offered this. This led me to thinking seriously about the South Africa Service Learning Program in Cape Town. I also liked that it was not largely Santa Clara students because I wanted to be forced out of my comfort zone. After thinking about all of these factors and looking at a variety of programs, I decided that Marquette's Cape Town program was my first choice.
Defining Moment Abroad?
My study abroad program placed each of us at a service learning site where we spent two days of each week. I was placed at a primary school in a poor neighborhood where I taught English to sixth and seventh graders. This proved to be a remarkably rewarding experience that challenged me in a variety of ways. It was different than anything I have done before and forced me to grow more than I could have imagined. I became aware of many of the injustices in the South African schooling system and gained a greater understanding of how important literacy is. During my time teaching, I became extremely passionate about equal education and making it possible for all children to achieve literacy. It also opened my eyes to many of the racial injustices that I was often blind to before. I hope to use this newly acquired passion to continue work in America. My time teaching was responsible for many of my new views on race, education, and other issues that all areas of the world face.
Advise to Prospective study abroad students?
I recommend that students really think about which program is best for them, but don't stress too much. Each program has different things to offer and you can make an incredible experience from many of them. I remember worrying a lot about choosing the program that would determine my experience, but you can make something great from whichever one you choose. In retrospect, I wish that I had gone in with more of an an open mind and without specific expectations. I think it is important to think about what you hope to gain from your time abroad, but the experience may be different from what you expected. That was one thing that I struggled with initially, and I think that it's crucial to embrace whatever wonderful experience you end up having. I also think it's important to realize that you will have good days and bad days over the span of a few months, but the overall experience is absolutely incredible. Everyone tells you that abroad is the most amazing experience ever, but it's important to understand that there were days in between the great ones where we were homesick or overwhelmed. Everyone will have their own experience, but I think most people who went abroad agree that it was a great decision. Don't worry about missing out on things going on at Santa Clara because it will all be waiting for you when you get back.