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Grace Kinder '12
Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
Studying abroad very well may be the best decision I make throughout my college experience. Perhaps the most significant factor in my desire to become an International Ambassador is this: I was initially terrified to go abroad. True, I had felt compelled by some inexplicable force to apply to study abroad, and I looked forward to living in Florence - however, nervous thoughts plagued me. And although I gained a lot of insight into the concept of studying abroad at the Pre-Depature Orientation, I wish someone there had told me not to bother with such silly worries - just to relax and enjoy immersion into Italian life. It would be an honor to serve as an International Ambassador; I would love to share my thoughts on my time abroad in Florence and to help students cope with the decision to be thrown into an unfamiliar environment.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
I surveyed my options thoroughly and concluded that Florence, Italy, was the ideal location for me to pursue each of my projected areas of study: I am a Theatre major and a Communication minor (though I intend to make it a major); I also maintain a personal interest in Religious Studies (which I plan to make a minor). The city of Florence and the program at Syracuse University provided me with a multifaceted experience that encompassed all of these aforementioned topics. I was able to exercise the knowledge I gained at Santa Clara University and acquired new perspectives abroad. Undoubtedly, living in a new country - one with a language which I barely knew - allowed me not only to utilize but also to challenge my communication skills. I also got a taste of Italy's theatrical history and firsthand knowledge of Florence's religious traditions and countless related landmarks. I traveled throughout Europe to various countries, all of which were unique and enjoyable in their own ways; however, I never once regretted my decision to make Florence my home.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
It is extremely difficult to pinpoint one defining moment throughout my experience in Florence because everyday seemed to hold different challenges, revelations and magical moments. At Syracuse University Florence, I was nominated for the Coluccio Salutati award, which is intended for the students at the university who exhibit the best writing skills in the first half of the semester and a commitment to immersion into the Italian culture. Though I was not among the final recipients, I think the essay best sums up my experience abroad; the following is the essay with post-return modifications. As I mentioned, I was originally fearful to study abroad - to leave behind my family, friends and the only continent on which I had ever been. I envisioned the most dire of circumstances. Instead, I found myself in the company of some of the warmest people I have ever met, immersed into one of the most dynamic cultures I have ever studied, and in the midst of the experience of a lifetime. In fact, I did not realize at first how readily I took to Florence until I was in the process of returning to the city after a weekend abroad. While chatting with my friends, I was surprised to hear myself proclaim how glad I was to be home. An epiphany! I realized that as Florence had opened its figurative arms to me, so, too, was I opening my figurative heart to Florence. I, this uncultured, untraveled California girl, was beginning to assimilate but not to the point that I could ever relinquish my deep awe of the city. Even still, the simple things thrilled me being able to use my pre-elementary level Italian in order to hold conversation with Florentines who are all too understanding of my mistakes; being in close proximity to what I consider to be some of the most beautiful works of architecture and artwork in the world; and, perhaps most comforting, being able to walk up to the apartment in which I live with a fantastic family and being able to say I am home. Despite my initial fears, I do not regret for a moment my decision to study abroad. My realm of experience has become a little bit bigger, and the world has become a little bit smaller. Put simply, studying abroad in Florence has played an essential role in making me feel a little bit more at home in the universe, and for that it will always hold a special place in my heart. It is for this reason that I can say confidently that, while my time in Florence is coming to an end, my love affair with the Italian country and culture is only just beginning and I cannot wait to see where it leads me next.
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?
First and foremost, I maintain that studying abroad is almost essential in obtaining a complete college experience. As I mentioned a couple of times, my fear of studying abroad overshadowed a lot of my preparation for my time there. That said, I would encourage students to be confident in the decision they make; they ought to research their study abroad options thoroughly, taking location, program offerings and opportunities, and personal interests into consideration. Of course it is a good idea for students who want to study abroad to hear the opinions of others on where they ought to go; however, the ultimate decision should lie in those students' hands. Students will ensure that their experience abroad will be best if it is an process that is guided by their own independence; this personalized approach allows students not only to undergo the most growth and development but also enables them to enjoy completely their immersion into a new culture.