Alumni Spotlight: Emily Madsen

Why did you decide to study abroad with CCA in Merida, Mexico?

Emily: I chose to study abroad with CCA in Mexico because of the different aspects of the program that I knew would encourage me to learn a lot about the country, see many aspects of the culture, and be immersed in the culture rather than just pass through as a tourist. What enticed me about CCA's programming was the many excursions they plan for the students. I knew I wanted to see the region I was living in - and the pre-planned trips made this very convenient!! Also taking classes on the Mexican culture allowed me to hear about the country from a new point of view, and compare it to what we are taught here in the US. Lastly the opportunity to participate in service learning/internships made it possible to bridge my academic and career interests with my experience abroad, further getting to be a part of the Mexican culture.

Emily preparing tortillas during her stay in a Mayan village

What made your study abroad experience unique and special?

Emily: I've noticed that my study abroad experience was unique from other programs and student's experiences abroad because I was really invested in the city of Mérida, and the Mexican people and culture. CCA ensured that I was very invested in the native way of life - by taking me to "average" places like nursing homes, cemeteries, markets, schools, museums, etc. By living with a host family I further got to experience parts of Mexican life that I otherwise may have not seen (family events/birthdays/holidays, church services, normal family routines - grocery shopping, cleaning, routines). Lastly CCA was unique in that it offered a diversity of coursework in both English and Spanish - to offer students of any skill level, and a variety of interest, the chance to benefit from its program.

Emily using sign language during her psychology internship

How has this experience impacted your future?

Emily: Studying abroad has impacted so many aspects of my life, and I reflect on my months abroad as providing me with all encompassing benefits. Obviously I got to see a new part of the world, I was able to travel and see some amazing places. I improved my Spanish greatly as I was forced to use the language and be immersed in it daily. Academically my eyes were opened to options in the field of psychology, and I had the chance to apply my learning and new principles while at my internship. I have been using experiences and knowledge from Mexico here at my home university since returning, often citing examples of what I saw abroad, offering up a new perspective to class discourse.

Emily with her Spanish professor and host mom

I think I was stretched to truly appreciate hands on education, and interacting with the course matter. After we learned about something in a class lecture in Mexico, we went out to see it, experience it. That takes learning to a new level. Personally while in Mexico my levels of confidence, independence, and adventure expanded greatly. I was not only forced, but also given opportunities to do things that I may have never experienced was I not studying abroad. I am proud as I reflect on all that I did and initiated in Mexico and use those times as reason to motivate me to attempt greater things in my daily life in the US, believing that I have the skills and passions to see them through. So much of my life is now defined "pre-" and "post-" Mexico, seeing as I made so many changes while experiencing life abroad.