Finding a Place in the World Through Study Abroad
When the whole, wide, gorgeous, teeming world is your classroom, it makes sense that the lessons you learn will be big, complex, often global in scope and universal in application. Almost always, what students gain from study abroad is also deeply personal.
Double majoring in Spanish and Studio Arts, Jed Smith (pictured right) studied in Ecuador last year with the support of a John. L. and Carol A. Wallace Study Abroad Scholarship. He strengthened his language skills, and learned a lot about the people and their culture. He did volunteer work that broadened his empathy, and brought him face-to-face with children in poverty.
"I did volunteer work with street kids, and discovered that sometimes all they want is a friend, or to be picked up,” said Smith. “I saw how people lived from the poorest of the poor to the rich, and everything in between. I learned to appreciate all of the little things that we take for granted while growing up in the United States. I learned to live and speak in another culture. I learned more about what I like about my own country.”
Spanish and anthropology student Raquel Amador (pictured left) is studying in Peru this year, supported by a Willis E. Sullivan III Study Abroad Scholarship. The language barrier is an ongoing challenge, Amador reports, but the experience is worth the effort.
“I am now entering my eighth month abroad here in Peru, and already, I have learned plenty of lasting lessons,” she said. “There’s a lot of heart in Latin America, and I’ve fallen in love with the Latin culture and spirit. I’ve learned a lot about my own country just by removing myself from my environment and watching the actions of the US play out on the global stage. I am much more aware of how our social and political policies are received worldwide.”
“The knowledge that I've gained through my experiences in Latin America have affected my every thought, opinion, and even my life decisions,” said Amador. “Eventually, I would love to be involved in shaping policies that include the exploration, involvement and support of Latin American peoples and culture, though I feel I have to start with the history of the land and its people in order to better understand the issues of today.”
Since his study abroad experience last fall, Smith, who graduated in December, has found his place in the world.
“This experience gave me the confidence to keep traveling,” he said. “Now I am living in Panama, starting my own business, and doing what I love.”
Amador is now hoping to work on a dig to study Paracas culture in Ica, Peru, and will apply for archaeology jobs in Peru and the US.
Their scope of opportunity is global. Yet Study Abroad students retain a lingering sense of awe about their world, and a sense of gratitude for the privilege, and hard work, of finding their place in it. As she works to more effectively communicate across cultures and learn from her studies in Peru, Amador is wistful when she attempts to summarize:
“I always feel like words fall short in describing how amazing my experience has been.”
Inspire an international experience by supporting Study Abroad Scholarships