Center for International Programs - Study Abroad

Student Profile- Abigail Gabriel- Universidad Alberto Hurtado

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Major: Communication Studies; Spanish

Abroad Program: Universidad Alberto Hurtado

Where & When: Santiago, Chile, Fall 2013

Favorite Course: Pobreza y Desarollo

Highlight: Taking all my classes in Spanish

Best Excursion: San Pedro de Atacama- The driest desert in the world! 

Favorite Dish: Empanadas

Least Favorite Dish: Completos

Next Destination: Sao Pablo, Brazil

How has this experience changed you?

This experience has changed me in more ways than I am able to explain. I know everyone says his or her study abroad experience was life changing, and mine truly was. Living and immersing myself in a completely different culture has made me a stronger and more independent person. I now speak Spanish fluently, and am amazed at how much I have learned. I am able to connect with people all around the world, and we now consider each other family. It has given me a completely different outlook on life and I now have so much respect for different cultures and people. I never wanted this experience to end and still think seriously about returning to Chile after I graduate. Only people who travel can truly understand what its like for a country/people to change you. I know have more patience and am able to not judge and get to know a person individually. I look at the person I was before I left and the person I am now, and I am so proud of how far I have come. 

What is one piece of advice you would pass on to a student who is about to study abroad?

All I can say to a prospective study abroad student is to take on this experience with a completely open mind and a full heart. You never know what your experience is going to consist of, but I can promise that it will be one of the best experiences of your life. Not everything is going to be perfect, there will be hardships and challenges, but what great journey is perfect? Step outside your comfort zone. Go with the flow and create your own experience. It is all what you make of it and the more open minded you are, the more rewarding your experience is going to be. Get to know natives; don’t just hang out with other study abroad students. Take time to learn the language of your host country instead of only speaking English.  Really get to know your host country and its culture, instead of traveling to a new place every weekend. Don’t be scared of the unexpected things, instead take on the challenge and in the end you will become a stronger person in general. My last piece of advice is to enjoy every single day of your study abroad experience. When you get home you are going to wish you could do it all over again, so enjoy your time and make each day an adventure. 

How have you used the language since you returned from your study abroad experience? How do you plan to use it in the future? 

Since I took all my classes in Spanish, and spoke Spanish 99% of the time while abroad, I have really mastered and become fluent in the language. I am almost as comfortable using Spanish as I am English, and since Spanish is becoming a second language here in the USA, it is very useful and I have been able to use it a lot.  Even if it’s something small like helping a Spanish speaker who knows no English communicate with an employee in the mall. Spanish is everywhere now a days and it feels good to be able to understand it completely. My fluency will also open a lot of job opportunities for me as I prepare to apply for internships and Jobs. Being bilingual is very essential now a days and I think you will be surprised at how rewarding a cultural immersion program is for practicing a language.