If you could give only one reason, why would you suggest other students study abroad?
It is the perfect opportunity to broaden your horizons. When you are in college, it is really easy to get caught up living in that bubble. Having the opportunity to really step out of it, while immersing oneself in another culture by studying abroad, is an amazing experience that will help you grow as a person and explore a different world.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
As I Science Major student on the Pre-Med path, once I found out that most of the students traveling along with me were engineering majors, I became a little nervous about of our different study areas. One of the classes I had to take was an engineering class and I was worried that I might not do well and that I would feel inadequate with my peers. However, that was not the case at all. I really felt at ease once we were taking classes in the Peruvian university together, mostly because I became very comfortable with the students and professors in the program. We all bonded by being in a foreign country, and became good friends fairly fast. The professors were also extremely helpful, so I did not have much trouble with the engineering class after all. What also helped me overcome this fear was knowing that this was a program for everyone and by no means exclusively for engineering majors; stepping out of my comfort zone, while in a foreign country, with other students doing the same, really helped me, since we were all learning together in the same environment.
How have you used the skills you learned abroad now that you are back; either in job searching, or in other activities?
Being abroad in a country with a different language and distinct customs and traditions, helped me step out of my comfort zone and immerse myself in new experiences. I am normally quiet and reserved, and some people might say even a little shy. Being in Lima made me stronger and more daring, willing to try new things and succeed in new situations. I believe that studying abroad has enhanced my communication and social skills, as well as it has given me an international perspective about the world and its people elsewhere. I feel like this program has enhanced my life and it has prepared me for future situations in any work force or job I will apply to in the future.
What experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have had if you had stayed at Penn State?
All of the experiences I had were very unique to Peru. Starting with the culinary exposure and, most importantly, the people factor, I couldn’t have had better experiences. I know for a fact that I could not get Peruvian food anywhere in State College, and that is something I have surely missed since being back; but moreover, the friendships I made with fellow Nittany Lions as well as my fellow classmates from the UNI in Lima are here to continue to flourish for years to come.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
I would tell them to be as open to all the experiences as possible. I would tell them to step out of their comfort zone whenever the opportunity presents itself and to not be afraid of what may seem different because that’s how they will get the most out of their experience abroad.
Share an experience where you interacted with someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something.
There were several instances where I learned something that will stay with me the rest of my life. For sure, while I was hiking Machu Picchu at about 7,700 feet in elevation above sea level, I was struggling getting to the top because it is a pretty difficult hike and I have asthma. I was able to reach the top, because I hiked with a couple of really special people. Two of them were Peruvian students from the Peruvian university in Lima, Erwin and Edson. We were in the back of the pack with a couple other Penn State students hiking the mountain. We all talked about what it must have been like for the Incas to climb to the top of the mountain and how amazing it was going to be once we got there. Erwin and Edson were really helpful and encouraging with me and my other friends as we were struggling to reach the top. We all bonded and I knew that they would be friends of mine for life. I still keep in touch with them to this day. And by the way, once we reached the top, it was truly breathtaking.