Santa Clara University

Margo Schroeder '12

International Ambassador

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

I have been looking forward to studying abroad since I was in middle school and I have always been passionate about travel. This experience did not disappoint! I think that in many ways my choice to study abroad was the most important decision of my college career as it helped me with not only my French minor, but also with self-confidence, patience and flexibility. I want to encourage other Santa Clara students to make the effort to go abroad, even if it might be easier to just stay on campus. I know that many of my peers chose not to study abroad because they did not have all the information. They may have thought it was too much work or that their credits would not transfer or that the experience would simply be too stressful. I want to show my peers that Santa Clara makes it easy and that it is a part of college not to be missed.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
I always knew I wanted to go somewhere with a language barrier because I thought it would be all the more exciting. As a French minor, France was the obvious choice, although I also thought about Burkina Faso and Senegal too. I decided on Paris because, coming from a small town and a small college, I wanted a change and to live in a big city.   I was also drawn to Paris because Paris is one of my favorite cities and I love the architecture and history. Luckily, in my time there I got to study both. Finally, I knew that IES was a great provider, as my brother studied abroad in New Zealand through IES and loved it.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
I think one of the biggest things that my abroad experience gave me was a simultaneous boost of confidence and a big slice of humble pie. I gained independence by using public transportation, traveling on my own and being isolated from the comforts of home. At the same time, however, I found that on a daily basis I was reminded that I was still learning and on a daily basis I made mistakes. Often, I made embarrassing mistakes. In this way, I learned to laugh at myself and not take things too seriously. When I reflect on these two contrasting feelings, I think of one incident in particular.   It was my first week in Paris, and after running around the city, my friends and I found our feet covered in blisters. In between classes I stopped by a little shop to find some bandaids. I confidently went up to the shop owner to ask in my best French if he sold bandaids. I was halfway through my question when I realized I didn't know how to say "bandaid." I started explaining, "When I have lots of blood and I want it too stop." He looked at me completely puzzled. This was when I swallowed my pride and started miming. Now probably a little annoyed, he pulled out a pad of paper and a pen and told me to draw it for him. Finally he understood, and I got my bandaids. The fact that I had to play charades and pictionary just to get some bandaids was a small example of how being in a foreign country challenges you daily. It forces you to overcome communication barriers and even makes you get creative. This experience reminded me that it's okay to make mistakes once in a while and that the best way to deal with them is to learn from it and laugh it off instead of getting frustrated.
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 think one of the best pieces of advice I can give after my time abroad is that it goes by incredibly fast. I was told this before I left so I tried my best to not waste a second of my 4 months. You are only there for a semester and there is an unlimited amount of things to do so you can't waste time being tired, or being homesick or getting frustrated. The best advice is to take advantage of being in a completely new place, but be flexible because anyone abroad will tell you, things almost never go exactly as planned. I learned that the unplanned adventures were often the best. In terms of preparing, I would read up on the area you are going to be in. By a book or go online and find some good restaurants to try or good walks or parks. That way as soon as you get there, you can start exploring! You should also look into where you want to travel while abroad, that way you will be sure not to miss out or waste time researching once you are abroad.