Reflections from Abroad

Woman smiling at the camera with windswept hair

Major: Computer Science, Entrepreneurship Minor

Year: Class of 2020

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

SU Exchange in Hull, England (Fall 2017)

SU-Sponsored in Auckland, New Zealand (Spring 2018)

During my time at the University of Auckland, I took a Pacific Studies class to broaden my knowledge about local Pacific challenges. I studied the ongoing movement towards decolonization of Western influences on Pacific academia and culture, the ramifications of U.S. foreign aid and the intensive militarization of Pacific islands. Building an awareness of these controversial issues not only pushed me to be more receptive towards the challenges marginalized groups face in the contemporary world, but also gave me an opportunity to reassess my identity as an American. Now that I know the United State’s involvement in the Pacific is a double-edged sword, I feel I have a duty to raise awareness of these wrongdoings and support both contemporary justice and historical reparations for Pacific Islanders.

I had a solid ten-year plan before I left for my year abroad: get a good paying job, buy a house, get married and have children. But when I returned home, I no longer felt the urgency to begin my ten-year plan immediately after graduation. While abroad in Hull and Auckland, I immersed myself in two different lifestyles that expanded and enriched my worldview. I actively challenged my ability to interact in unfamiliar situations. (To my surprise, I felt so empowered by my experience that I even embraced the idea of building my post-grad life outside the United States!) Having returned from my year abroad, I feel much more settled with myself and am no longer afraid of answering “I don’t know yet” to questions about my career path or post-grad plans. I found comfort in uncertainty and being conscious of the present.

Man looking out at a town while leaning on a fence

Major: International Studies and Spanish, Latin American Studies Minor

Year: Class of 2020

Hometown: Portland, OR

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Latin American Studies Program (LASP) SU Faculty-Led in Pueble, Mexico (Winter & Spring 2018)

In the United States we have a very individualistic idea of how we should interact with each other. Everything is done on our own. In my case, as soon as I hit the age of 18, I was thrown out of the nest. I went to college, signed up for classes, and brought in scholarships on my own. I was responsible for my future. This is not to say that my family had abandoned me. I still went home for the holidays and I made phone calls home, but there was no interconnected feeling of reliability. During my study abroad in Puebla, Mexico, I found this warm security without even realizing it was there. At first it made no sense to me, but in the end it grew on me. After coming back I realized I missed that feeling. I had to reevaluate how I understood my individualistic American nature.

As an International Studies major, I had to forge my own path. I had chosen Spanish from the beginning, hoping to finally gain something near fluency, but I did not know what I would do after school. When I went abroad, I was still unsure of what I would do after graduation. My study abroad program led me to a research opportunity in Guatemala about gender-based violence. My time connecting with Mexican friends and Guatemalan community organizers revealed my goal of serving those in the margins. I came to the conclusion that I would want to go to graduate school with a focus on foreign service and a specialization in Latin American Studies. With these tools, I would like a career working in the foreign service as a public diplomacy officer. I want to have a positive effect on policy by working with those on the ground.

 man with his head tilted smiling at the camera on a bridge with a castle in the background

Major: Nursing, Spanish Minor

Year: Class of 2022

Hometown: Great Falls, MT

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Non-SU Program in Madrid & Salamanca, Spain (Summer 2019)

During my time in Spain, I was faced with situations that challenged my perspective and identity on a daily basis. Immersing myself in a culture different than the one I grew up in was difficult, formative, and one of the best experiences of my life. Examining myself, my country, and my values, in comparison to Spain’s, opened up a global perspective that challenged my biases and opened my eyes to the histories and views of other countries. Sitting in my Spanish history class in Madrid, I learned about world history from the perspective of Spain and was shocked by the differences in how the history was recounted compared to how I grew up hearing it. In that moment, a wall broke down that was made of my biases and single faceted perspectives.

I have always had a pretty straightforward plan in regards to my career path and what I want to do with my nursing degree. But, after adding Spanish in addition to nursing and having the opportunity to go abroad to improve my Spanish and grow my global perspective, my plans changed. As a nurse, my hope is to incorporate Spanish into my practice. While I have many aspirations for what I want to do in my career, I know now that I want to work in spaces where my linguistic skills can be used to advocate and provide care for patients in both a culturally sensitive and clinical environment. Whether that be working in a multilingual clinic, different parts of the world, or in Seattle, I strive to work in spaces that have specific needs that my skill set can fulfill.

 Man sitting on the rocks by the water

Major: Business Management, Entrepreneurship Minor

Year: Class of 2022

Hometown: Hyderabad, India

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Photography Portfolio in Paris, SU Faculty-Led - Short Term (Summer 2019)

As a photography enthusiast and student, I spent a significant amount of my time exploring Paris during both day and night. A large proportion of the images I captured included architectural forms, urban landscapes, and pigeons! However, I did not find a significant amount of nature. Bearing in mind the topic of climate change, I pondered about the efforts that the French government made to make Paris greener. The next day, the course instructor informed all of us that Paris is indeed trying to become greener by creating space for environmental development. This experience of questioning my "local" perspective and seeking an answer, posed as a challenge to my "global" viewpoint. The result of my finding made me feel optimistic about the steps that we all were taking as a global community.

My decision to study abroad definitely has a significant impact on my daily life. Not only did it make me more culturally aware of the location I was living in, but it also gave me the ability to explore and look at the world in a perspective different from my own. The process of living in a foreign country put my outlook on personal "independence" to test. I knew that I had to utilize this aspect properly to result in an overall fruitful experience. It almost felt like a test of reality which assessed the life lessons I have learned so far. The takeaway from this experience for my future self would be to move out of my "comfort zone" to seek answers. I had produced some of my best photographs when I experimented, and this validates the approach that I would choose to take for my goals.

Woman in front of Eiffel Tower

Major: International Studies, French Minor

Year: Class of 2019

Hometown: Missoula, MO

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

French-in-France and Africa (FIFFA) SU Faculty-Led in France & Morocco (Winter & Spring 2017)

I did the French-in-France program in Spring 2017, which, at the time, consisted of spending five months in Grenoble, France, and then traveling to Morocco for ten days. During those ten days we visited several different parts of Morocco, having conversations and sharing mint tea with locals. Something that challenged me during these ten days was being asked about what it means to be a nation in the United States. I remember thinking about it in terms of American Exceptionalism, or the idea that the United States is unique from the rest of the world, and reflecting on how many injustices occur within America’s borders every day. In other words, this question made me think about how we look at humanitarian aid in the United States, always focusing on “under-developed” countries and never on our neighbors who can’t afford school supplies. The question itself was especially eye-opening coming from a student in the Maghreb, Northern Africa, a place I had once understood to be “under-developed” as a country in the Global South.

Studying abroad opened the world up to me in so many ways, and gave me opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise. I was introduced to TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France) through my professors and previous students who did the same study abroad program as me. As someone who has not yet applied for graduate school, TAPIF is a great way to further my education and experience with the French culture. This year I have been living in Pamiers, France, a small village about an hour south of Toulouse, working as an English Teaching Assistant in a high school. Although most of my time is spent speaking in English with the students, my French comprehension and language abilities have improved considerably, and knowing multiple languages opens further doors as I think about what direction I want my career to go.

Woman smiling at the camera on a street in Cameroon

Major: Economic - International Economic Development

Year: Class of 2020

Hometown: Bend, OR

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

SU Sponsored in Cameroon (Fall 2018)

Having conversations with Cameroonians on their thoughts of the US and western world opened my eyes to how widespread neocolonialism is in Cameroon and other developing countries. I saw how unrestrained globalization stole land from under the feet of villages, destroyed the autonomy and livelihood of indigenous communities, and how the western world has had a hand in all of this. The most important way to combat the economic control the western world holds over Cameroon is by working alongside and focusing resources more on local organizations that best understand the needs of their communities. I saw this first hand while interning with RELUFA, a local organization fighting against the injustices civil society faces through sustainable projects and government collaboration to better protect marginalized communities and land tenure.

Through interning with RELUFA, I found the niche in policy work that I am most interested in. I was given the opportunity to learn from and work under civil society leaders and ministers within the government that helped me develop advocacy skills and piqued my interest in working with organizations developing better land tenure systems. Specifically, I gained knowledge of how policy research and analysis can support organizations and the government to implement policies that will benefit everyone while being economically feasible, environmentally sustainable, and inclusive of all voices.