Santa Clara University

Sandra MacDonnell '12

International Ambassador


Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
I had an amazing but also at times challenging experience studying abroad. I would like to serve as an International Ambassador because I think studying abroad is an amazing experience everyone should have and I would love to help others enjoy this opportunity. When I was deciding to study abroad there wasn't anyone really who had gone to my program so I couldn't ask anyone questions. I would love to be able to answer people's questions about my program and give them advice if they decide to go there. It would have been extremely helpful if I had a person to ask questions about San Sebastian before I went. I think I would have been better prepared and had an easier time with the adjustment. Because there is no formal program in San Sebastian we were very much on our own, which at times was a bit challenging. I had an incredible time in Spain and I would love to share it with others and help them have an amazing experience as well.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
I chose Spain because I am nearly fluent in Spanish and thought it would be good to go to a country where I could speak the language. I have been to a few Central and South American countries so I decided to go to Europe for something different.  I chose San Sebastian in particular because I liked the Direct Exchange program. I wanted to go somewhere where I had a lot of independence and where I would be fully immersed in the culture.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
For me it was a few defining moments that made me a more independent and responsible person. I had to open my own bank account and set up a cell phone and internet all in Spanish. I haven't ever done any of those things at home in English, yet there I was in Spain doing it in Spanish. Another moment was when I got stuck outside the train station in Barcelona overnight when we missed our bus home. At that moment I realized that I was really on my own. My parents weren't there to fix it, nor were they a phone call away. I am definitely a much more grown up person after having been abroad.
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 recommend that students research the city they will be staying in as much as possible before choosing it. Some important factors I wish I had taken into account are courses offered by the program/university, location in relation to major airports, housing arrangements, things included in program fee, whether there is a program or not, etc. I would have liked to have been able to ask more questions and know more about the program before I showed up in Spain. Because it was a direct exchange program we were very much on our own and without much guidance. It would have been good to know that before I went.