What was your biggest surprise on arrival to study abroad?
I think my biggest surprise was the freedom that I had traveling alone. I chose to live with a host family for a month, and the only expectations were that I attend my Spanish classes in the mornings, volunteer in the afternoons and be at the table for all three meals (unless previously established). Other than that my time was mine to do as I wish. There is something so liberating about that.
Why did you choose to go to Guatemala for study abroad?
I chose to volunteer abroad in Guatemala to learn Spanish, experience another culture and learn outside the classroom.
What did you learn from you study abroad experience that you could not learn in Worcester?
It is incredible how much Spanish I learned in a month. When I first arrived, I could barely have a conversation one-on-one, let alone understand conversation at the dinner table. When I left, I could both understand and participate in the conversations around the table with my (very large) host family. My inability to communicate fluently masked my intelligence and made it difficult to communicate at a very basic level. When you can’t express yourself, people assume that you’re dumb. That experience really opened my eyes to what a non-English speaker may experience here at home. I am now more aware and more sensitive to those challenges.
What is the biggest change that you have noticed about yourself since coming back?
The biggest personal change so far has been that I’m quieter. I am content just being in the company of others. I don’t need to have huge conversations to feel connected to my family and friends.
Why would you recommend study abroad?
I would recommend study abroad because I think everyone needs time to learn and grow on a personal and independent level. At home, a lot of external factors influence my decisions, but abroad I had the freedom to do anything and everything that I wanted. It was a huge time for me to learn about myself.
*Cultural Embrace by API partners with local non-profits and NGOs. Its goals are to assist at-need and at-risk communities and to improve their standards of living, while providing clients a safe and enjoyable way to embrace the region’s culture.