Alumni Spotlight: Jordan Gustke


Jordan has a love for exploring and has been given the opportunity to visit a handful of countries over two study abroad terms. Being a Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management major at her home university, Jordan loves experiencing the cultures and cuisines of communities around the globe.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program for a couple of different reasons. The first reason is that I'm a senior and I was looking for a way to go abroad again before I graduated. The second, and more important reason, was the class subject.

I took the Economics of Wine course through CIEE's January in Cape Town program, and this was probably the most informational, enjoyable, and awe-inspiring course that I've gotten the chance to take. Our professor was well versed in the ways of the wine industry in South Africa and had plenty of first-hand experiences to share, and because there were only three students in my term, we got more exclusive co-curricular too.

These experiences were vital to our coursework and definitely added some renowned connections to my contact list in the process. We got to tour the cellars and chat with Managing Directors, Head Wine Makers, and Marketing and Outreach professionals from each of the wine farms we went to. Not to mention we got to do all of this in beautiful Cape Town, South Africa!

The location was also a big selling point, and I was really excited that this was going to be the venue because I was looking for something different than my first study abroad; which was a semester in Estonia. I also picked this course because I work for my college's Office of International Education, and when wee had recently added CIEE as a partner I noticed that they have some really affordable and exciting programs!

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

My university helped with completing their own application as well as providing a pathway to create an application with CIEE.

CIEE was extremely helpful and communicated quickly and efficiently with everything that I had problems with or questions on that my home university couldn't. Given that I work as one of the people that would help me at my home university and that I had already gone abroad once before, I only had a few things that I needed to contact them for, but when I did Lauren, the advisor I was assigned, was helpful and kind. She was also proactive before departure and tried to get all of us involved in some activities too!

I was also responsible for organizing my own flights, but since I got a small scholarship through CIEE, I had to go through their corporate travel agent to do so.

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

One piece of advice that I would give to someone going on this program would be to be open to stepping outside of your comfort zone both in the classroom and outside of it.

I'm really good at not wanting to speak up in class in case my answers are wrong, and I really thought an economics course was going to be rather unforgiving. But in reality, it was quite the opposite! Our professor fostered an environment of learning and civil discussions where each of us could bring our personal backgrounds (none of which were actually in economics!) in for a different point of view.

Additionally, Cape Town is an energetic and vibrant community, and trying things is one of the main components of your study here; or anywhere really!

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

Being that this is a short-term program, the coursework and time overall there go by pretty quickly. But the professors keep you well informed on expectations, and the staff at the GI do their best to help fit in everything you want to do during your stay by incorporating some excursion into the structure of the program itself. This is really helpful if you're indecisive about what to do like me! We had class every day for about three hours at either 9 am or 1 pm-ish, and then the activities through CIEE happened on either weekend or during the afternoons/evenings after class. Otherwise, the rest of the time was our own to go exploring; in groups, that is.

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

Given that this wasn't going to be my first time out of the country, I think my biggest fear was getting all of the course requirements done in such a short amount of time while still getting to go out and explore my host community. I think I overcame this by keeping really good track of what was due and when.

I also made sure to really prioritize what I wanted to do while I was in Cape Town, and made sure to plan out time to do work around them. It's kind of hard when there are only like 14 people in the entire J-Term program because we all did things together, and while I really hated not being able to do everything with them, I feel like I struck a good balance between the two.

What has studying abroad taught you?

I have learned so many different things during my time abroad, and they extend so far beyond the courses that you take.

My favorite thing is to meet people and hear their stories, and studying abroad is literally the perfect avenue to do that. My favorite experiences from these terms abroad have been attending language cafes, Iranian New Year (Nowruz), the Eziko cooking school in Langa, our family lunch where we got to visit and eat with families in the townships, and the food jam where we worked as a team to prepare a whole buffet of dishes.

The reason this has stuck with me is how much they provide insight into other cultures and ways of life.

Going abroad is so much more than exploring another country: it's about experiencing a change in yourself and growing while you do.

I never expected to feel connected to the counties that I stayed in this much, but they really do start to feel like home. Studying abroad has taught me more about myself than anything else; helping me see how resilient and capable I really am.

I honestly can't promote this enough to people that can afford to do so.