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Katie Strandberg '12
Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?
I am very passionate about the experience I had while studying abroad, and I would like to share that enthusiasm with other students who are considering studying in another country. The program that I participated in is unique to many others, and it is important for students to see the wide variety of programs offered and choose one that they believe will fit them best. The Organization for Tropical Studies programs have historically been under-represented by Santa Clara students, and I would like to attempt to change this because I believe it is a truly beneficial and eye-opening experience that other students would enjoy as much as I did.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
When considering different programs and locations, I was looking for a mix of factors that I thought would enable me to get the most out of my experience. The primary factor that influenced my decision was whether I would have the chance to apply my science and public health knowledge and be able to expand it throughout my time there. The hands-on nature of the program and interactive learning that took place on a regular basis allowed for this growth to take place. I was also interested in being able to utilize the Spanish I had previously learned and improve my communication skills through interaction with native speakers. Finally, it was important that I went somewhere with a fascinating culture.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
As part of our semester long research project, my group visited an indigenous community and conducted interviews with residents in order to get a sense of their nutritional status. Having visited other communities throughout Costa Rica, it was evident that the health status, standard of living, and socioeconomic status of this particular community were much lower. Speaking to people in the community allowed us to learn of the inequalities and discrimination that this group faces. It was eye opening to witness such drastic differences between this indigenous community and the less rural and marginalized communities throughout the rest of Costa Rica. It made me realize that even in a country that provides health care for all of its citizens, there are still groups that fall through the cracks, and it is sometimes difficult to reach the entire population while still providing equal care. It caused me to personally reflect about the privileges I have that I often times take for granted.
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?
Students who are thinking about studying abroad should choose a program and location that truly interests them, whether it be on an academic or a personal level, or both. They also should not be afraid to be independent and go somewhere that none of their friends are going, because this provides additional opportunities to meet new and unique people. I would also recommend doing ancillary research to learn more about the country before going there. If I could have prepared for my study abroad experience differently, I would have taken more opportunities to practice speaking the language so that I could have become more comfortable beforehand, in order to maximize my experience once I was there.