Santa Clara University

Dara O'Connell '12

International Ambassador

Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?

I absolutely loved my study abroad experience and I realized that the help of those who went abroad before me was crucial to traveling and having some idea of what to expect. I would love to be among the next group to help the coming Juniors ready themselves to go abroad with enthusiasm, excitement and confidence that they are as prepared as possible for all that is to come!
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
I studied abroad in Florence, Italy which was ideal because I knew I wanted to go to Italy. I love Italian culture, the parts of the language I was familiar with, the food and the the stories that everyone that studied in Italy had told. I hadn't taken the language yet but I was told it was not crucial to succeeding in the program and that I would learn fast. I also had a friend who lived in the homestay I was recommended, which made it all seem perfect to know that I would love my host mother even before departing for Italy!
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
A defining moment for me while studying abroad was planning an entire weekend of travel only 3 days before it started. My friend and I planned to go explore the south of Italy, starting our Friday morning in Siena then spontaneously finding trains to Naples with a hostel and the best pizza of our lives, then Saturday going to Pompei and Positano. We created an entire experience with solely the confidence and the motivation to pull it all together, we traveled all within Italy and got by solely on the Italian we had learned and the carrying only a small backpack on our backs. It was the most self-assuring and rewarding vacation I've ever been on and it made me realize I am capable of navigating a foreign place using the tools and language I was studying. That's what abroad gave me.
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?

The best advice I could give is pour your heart and sole into everything you do with an open mind. I went to Italy without any knowledge of the language and made myself learn, practice and speak as often as possible. Even when friends laughed and I butchered most everything especially for the first two weeks, I kept speaking and learning. Also it was very important to be open to everyone, every culture and every experience and I made the most of every memory. I would definitely have loved though, to go with some knowledge of the Italian language, especially in order to get to know my host mother better.