Santa Clara University

Katharine Kurtz '11

International Ambassador


Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
I want to serve as an international ambassador, not only to spread the word about the SFS program, but to encourage students to step as far out of their comfort zone as they can. Spending almost 4 months in eastern Africa has certainly taught me a lot about myself and has enlightened me on many of my views. I think having the opportunity to go abroad is special in itself; but having the opportunity to experience an entirely different world for a good amount of time is truly an eye-opening, perspective changing experience. I have seen things that I can only explain with words, but by being an Ambassador I can hopefully convince those who are interested that these experiences I had can only be truly meaningful if they are witnessed in person. I also think it's important to really get away from Santa Clara and because of SFS and the small amount of students they take at a time, it's possible to do that and be the only student from Santa Clara. I believe being an ambassador would be very beneficial for me personally as well as for intriguing the future students going abroad to really broaden their horizons and go someplace entirely foreign to them.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
The deciding factors for choosing SFS Kenya and Tanzania were fairly simple. I wanted to explore the African culture and wildlife as well as be as independent as possible. SFS only had 28 students total and they were all from different states across the country which really made the program interest me. Plus, I am an outdoorsy person and the majority of the program was spent outside scaling the African savannah.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
There are so many moments I could name here; however, if I had to name one it would be my experience with conducting my final research project. I collected field data across Kenyan group ranches regarding soil erosion and the land's susceptibility to soil degradation. This field work was a completely new and intellectually stimulating experience. I felt like a veteran ecologist during my experimentation in the field. I also conducted interviews with the local Maasai people who were living on the land to understand their views on the land and what they thought was contributing to its degradation. These interviews wholly affected me because I was able to witness an entirely different way of life and a completely new atmosphere. I have never felt to uncomfortable and comfortable at the same time. At the end of all my data collection and analysis, I was able to put together a 55 page report, which made me feel really great about my work and myself.
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?
I would tell prospective students to really understand where they are going and why they want to go there. I would tell them to not go because their friends are going but because it's what they truly want. Going abroad is such an exciting adventure and I would love to talk with students about how to prepare and what to do once they get to a foreign country. Looking back, the only preparation I would change was how I packed. I should've brought some more stuff to trade with the local vendors. Otherwise, I felt very prepared(physically that is) for my journey to Africa. I do not think it would've been possible to have mentally prepared myself for what I experienced. I just needed to make sure I had a positive and flexible mindset going into everything I was apart of.