Alison studied in Argentina on the IES: Buenos Aires, Advanced Spanish Immersion Program during the Spring of 2015.
If you could give only one reason, why would you suggest other students study abroad?
Studying abroad is the most enriching cultural and personal experience. It is an opportunity to try new things daily, to immerse oneself in a culture, and expand your perspective of the world.
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
I would do more research about recent events in the country’s history and just get a basic understanding of the country.
What specific factors influenced your decision to go abroad?
I wanted to study Spanish in a Spanish speaking country, so studying abroad was a great way to meet that goal.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
I was afraid of how hard local university courses would be. Navigating a different educational system and bureaucracy in a different university (in my second language!) was scary. But it was one of the most enriching experiences of my time abroad. I overcame my fears by meeting with my adviser at IES to talk about the local university course. I would also talk to the university professor after class to make sure I understood the assignments and deadlines.
What was it about your program specifically that fit your personal goals over other programs?
Argentina was perfect for practicing Spanish EVERYDAY! Even when I traveled through Argentina, I was still speaking Spanish. My goal was to practice Spanish and immerse myself in a culture, and for me, Argentina was more amenable to that goal than Europe.
How have you used the skills you learned abroad now that you are back; either in job searching, or in other activities?
My international experience improved my capacity to communicate across cultures and my awareness of politics and history in Latin America. I have talked about these experiences in interviews for leadership positions on campus. Learning more about a region also allows you to realize how much hard work and personal interaction is required to understand a culture. This learning experience has been humbling. This has empowered me to acknowledge my ignorance and voraciously continue learning about other regions of the world.
What experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have had if you had stayed at Penn State?
My experience in the local university was unique. I learned Argentine history in an Argentine classroom among Argentines. Penn State never could have provided me with their perspective and insight.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
To outbound study abroad students, enjoy every moment of your time abroad. Stay in touch with your loved ones back home. Take photographs of everything. Try to never eat at McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Subway. You can get that when you come home! Savor the food in your country while you can because you will miss it.