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Jessika Mendence '12
Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
I want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University because I want to be able to share my experiences with other students and encourage them to study abroad. When I was trying to decide if I wanted to go abroad, I was scared and didn't want to. But I talked to other people who had gone and they convinced me to step out of my comfort zone. Looking back now I realize that it was a life-changing experience, and I am so glad that I didn't miss out on it.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
Having never been out of the country, I didn't even consider studying abroad because I just figured it wasn't for me. Fortunately, on the day of the petition deadline I changed my mind. When I thought about it, I realized that the only place I really wanted to see was Italy. My family comes from an Italian background, and I have always wanted to learn more about my heritage. Being an Accounting and Psychology major, I knew I wouldn't be fulfilling any major requirements. So, I tried something new and studied another culture; I took classes about art, the Italian language, and Italian cooking. I chose to study in Florence because it is in the center of Italy and one of my friends highly recommended it to me. Syracuse was the only program available in Syracuse.
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 in my abroad experience was probably when I first got to Florence. Since I had never really travelled, I had no idea what to expect when I got there. I was completely in awe by my surroundings. Not only could I not understand what people were saying or what signs said, but I had never seen anything like it in my entire life. I had trouble trying to describe it to my family. After about a month, I felt like I was ready to come home; I missed my family and friends and started to feel lonely. However, once I got acclimated to my new surroundings, I realized that Florence had become my home.
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?
My first recommendation would be to definitely take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Once you do, fully immerse yourself in the culture. Live with them, talk to them, and work with them if you can. I lived with an Italian family, studied the Italian language, and worked in an Italian chocolate shop. I even went out at night with my Italian host sister to some of the "discotecas" and bars with her and her friends. It really is an amazing experience to see how they live. Also, if you plan on traveling to other places, try to book as many trips as possibly beforehand. If not, time flies by and you end up regretting not seeing other countries or cities. Lastly, pack light. I bought a lot of souvenirs and Christmas presents, so I had a little bit of trouble trying to get them all back home.