Santa Clara University

Nate Funkhouser '13

International Ambassador

 

Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador?
Studying abroad really changed the way that I look at the world and I found it to be a crucial experience in my education at Santa Clara. The Casa program in particular has inspired to me to reach out to others and share my experiences getting to know humanity in other parts of the world. Our Santa Clara world can often be so small and going abroad has only made me realize how much more important it is to see a bigger, fuller world. I want to be able to help current students who are considering going abroad with their decision making processes so they do no miss out on such an incredible, life-changing experience.
Deciding factor for studying abroad?
The deciding factors in me going to El Salvador were mainly the language, curriculum, and the community-based aspects of the program. It was very important for me to go somewhere where I could speak Spanish, stay on track with my academic goals, and interact with the people on a very human level, really getting to know their lives so we could find shared experiences and differences to learn from.
Defining Moment Abroad?
One of the most deigning moments of my semester abroad occurred in my community praxis site. At first, I was struggling a lot with the English classes I was teaching to some of the children in the community. I found them to be a waste of my time, quite honestly, and did not understand why I was devoting so much effort to what I saw as a "lost cause." At lunch one day, though, the mother at my praxis site was talking to me about her eldest song, Yovani, with whom we had grown very close. Yovani became paralyzed when he was 17 in an accident while he was working to earn money to complete high school. He now stay at home in his wheelchair with little variation in his day-to-day. His mother explained to us, tearfully, the importance of him learning English so that he may one day be able to get a job and attain an independent life that may otherwise be impossible. It was then that I began to realize that so much is bigger than me and my personal preferences. I had the opportunity to help a young man become independent. I was truly humbled.
Advice to Prospective study abroad students?
It is very important to make sure that studying abroad in a certain location will give you what you want to get out of it, both personally and academically. For me, I was lucky to find a program that fit both of these goals very well and also encouraged me to grow beyond what I knew myself to be. I would tell advisees to identify the crucial elements of the abroad program they would like to have and pay close attention to those when selecting. I would also encourage them to be open to the personal growth that can occur while abroad, something I did not see coming, but certainly affected my experience abroad the most.