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Francisco Castillo '13
Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador?
Because it seems like the only real way to actualize and verbalize my experiences in Rome and everywhere I traveled and experienced. Because I have so much energy and stories and advice and wisdom to pass on to whoever is willing to listen and that I still am going through Abroad Withdrawals and believe this will be the cure.
Deciding factor for studying abroad?
Having taken Spanish all my academic life, I was tired of it and didnt want to take it again when faced with the task of taking a foreign language for my major. Not interested in french because it was too foreign and complicated, I found solace in the beauty of the Italian language, similar enough to spanish for me to be familiar yet different enough to be challenging. And thus, I took Italian for all 3 quarters of sophomore year, so by the time I had to choose where to go abroad, Rome made the most sense. As a child, I remember having a conversation with my mom telling her if I could go anywhere in the world, my top three countries would be 3) France, 2) Greece, 1) Italy. And so, with the influence of some of my friends in my italian class, I choose Rome and never will ever regret that decision.
Defining Moment Abroad?
Deciding to be a maverick, I decided to take an extra week off to make my fall break 2 weeks long. My schedule and skips and a national holiday all made for the plan to flawlessly leave my academics unscathed. And so my grand plan of a trip was grand and long and look liked this: Rome to Athens to Santorini to Cairo to Istanbul to Copenhagen to London to Amsterdam to Rome (even though I never made it to London). While I was at most of these places with friends, the defining moment I'd like to focus primarily here is my time spent alone in Copenhagen. 5 days in Copenhagen, I was there by myself 3. The first two days I spent exploring the city with my Santa Clara roomate of 2 years, Daniel Frank, who was currently studying in Istanbul and who flew with me to Denmark to go to a music festival. After Dan left, I was suppose to go to London, but didnt really have enough money to buy a last minute flight and thus stayed in Denmark for the next three days, against my plan and ultimately unsure as to what I'd do with my time or how I'd survive. Yet I survived and it was victorious yet quaint. Being alone in an unfamiliar environment with strange people speaking a strange language who use a strange currency and having a small amount of funds to know whether or not youll be sleeping in a bed or bush is a stressful situation to say the least. From Sunday to Wednesday, I was unsure as to where I was going to sleep each night (I eventually slept at the same hostel each night), what i'd eat (7/11 and burger king made up most of my diet), and what i'd do in between for fun to pass the time. And while this might all sound stressful due to the uncertainty involved, what I find interesting in looking back at it all, was that I survived. Yea, sure I didnt always know where I was going to sleep, what to eat, and other basic survival knoweledge, looking back on it, not only did I survive, I managed to take my experiences and turn them into poems and memories and drawings which I put in my journal during the daytime in Copenhagen. Looking back and reading that journal makes me realize how strong I was and that I was capable of such resilience and how that experience of near-homelessness is experienced by a number of people throughout the world and how fortunate i am to have the life and luxuries I've been given. Academically and culturally, it left me with an understanding that no matter how bad it gets, you can still survive and thrive if given the right mindset and even if all it takes is a little luck, that little luck can go a long way if youre smart about it all.
Advise to Prospective study abroad students?
work alot before going abroad. Money is not only nice to have, but mandatory. Sure, your program might give out loans if you need money, but having alot of money makes a huge difference and will make things less stressful especially when travelling(at least a spare $6,000). Never get tied to routine, never fall into mediocrity, avoid being too american, and always listen. Take pictures of everything, write everyday, write everyday, write everyday. An accurate and in-depth journal of what you felt and what you experienced with minor details is worth more than water in a drought for your older, more senile self. Dont get lazy and always explore, live for adventure, and say yes to friends to anything you'd regularly not do. Live, love, travel. that is my advice.