Alumni Spotlight: Quentin D. Bernhard


Quentin is a highly motivated undergraduate student and an engaged global citizen from New Tripoli, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. He is majoring in both history and political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he hopes to graduate with honors in 2020.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the program because of its academic focus on transnationalism and development related to my interest in the intersection of history, politics, and economics. I knew that I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country in which I would take classes in Spanish and have a homestay living experience. Argentina fascinated me, and the opportunity to travel with the program and have powerful experiences in diverse Latin American cultures both intrigued me and seemed certain to transform me, an idea that appealed to me, especially given that I had never left the United States before I went to Argentina.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The School for International Training (SIT), the program provider, provided me with information about program guidelines, health and safety recommendations, and a general itinerary before I left the United States. SIT also gave me information about a pre-departure assignment, applying for a Brazilian visa, and meeting the other program participants at a specific airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

While I did have to pay for my beginning- and end-of-program flights and my pre-departure health care services, my semester bill for the program included extensive group travel both around Buenos Aires and the areas that we visited on excursions in neighboring Southern Cone countries. The program bill also included a local homestay and hotels during orientation and excursions. Breakfast and dinner were served in my homestay, and I received a stipend from the program for lunch and public transportation costs from commuting to class.

The staff helped me obtain a Paraguayan visa while in Buenos Aires. I had to arrange my own transportation back to the airport for post-program departure.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would tell future participants to be flexible, patient, and open-minded. Different cultural norms will take time to get used to, and the use of Spanish both in the homestay and the classroom may seem daunting or challenging. Embrace the challenges and speak the language as much as possible. Your fluency and mood will improve tremendously.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Students eat breakfast in their homestays before heading to class, which often involves colectivos (buses) or el Subte (the subway). They attend two or three classes with other program students over the course of the day and have at least an hour to get lunch on their own or with their classmates. Students then head home to eat dinner with their host families and work on any assignments they have.

Many days are more experiential or field-based, and they involve students interacting directly with members of organizations or communities, often after a class or two on any given day (students have schedules that include program visits and excursions). Excursions include travel, classes, and more visits, sometimes to visit tourist attractions.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was somewhat concerned about the extent to which language would impair my learning, and I was also worried about navigating unfamiliar foods and customs. My positive interactions with my host family and my ability to understand class lectures quickly reassured me and made me feel that the challenges I faced were manageable. My language and cultural proficiency certainly improved over the course of the semester, major study abroad goals of mine, which led me to take increased pride in my personal development.