Why did you pick this program?
Morgan: When I found out that studying abroad was a requirement for my Spanish major, I began to research the different providers affiliated with my school. I realized that since I am a double major, finding a time and place to fit in study abroad could be difficult due to the nature of accounting courses.
My school is unique in the fact that we have a long winter break (about 2 months). This seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to take advantage of the time off of school to study abroad as to not interfere with my accounting schedule. I looked for providers who had an option to study abroad for the month of January, much like a summer term. ISA and CEA both have this option.
Then it came time to decide where exactly I wanted to go. My parents were amazing growing up and wanted us to be cultured, so I had already been to many of the locations where a program was offered. I decided I wanted to go somewhere I had never been. This left essentially Argentina and Chile. CEA did not have a January Spanish program, so by process of elimination, I chose to go with ISA to Chile.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
Morgan: There are innumerable benefits of studying abroad while in college. The benefits of this experience to overflow in many different realms of any student's life - personally, professionally, financially, and spiritually. Primarily, studying in a foreign country promotes independence of an individual, a huge step in the journey of adulthood.
Gaining understanding of who you are when you are placed in a foreign environment, maybe alone, develops one's mind to adapt to any situation. It develops a more global view, erasing the idea of bigotry that has been instilled within one's own society. Professionally, a student can learn from studying abroad by gaining cultural and linguistic knowledge, which they can utilize when working with clients of different nationalities.
Financially, studying abroad is a stretch! If anything, studying abroad should unintentionally force a student to learn how to keep a budget and stick to it. The phrase "YOLO" might apply when studying abroad - but honestly, every student is aware of their money and how they are spending it.
This is a huge life lesson! While abroad, a student is also able to grow spiritually - they get to immerse themselves in an entirely different religion than they are used to. Immersion is a once in a lifetime opportunity where students are taught personal independence, and grow personally, professionally, financially and spiritually.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
Morgan: I strongly suggest studying abroad. There is no easier time to go abroad than now - it's acceptable to be poor, you learn about yourself, and quite frankly, its easier to travel when you aren't having to take care of your (future) family. Being able to be independent allows you to mature, something our generation truly needs and the workplace strongly desires. I mean practically, studying abroad makes sense in every aspect.
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
Morgan: The hardest part about being abroad wasn't the traveling or culture differences. It was what I learned about Americans. There were about 8 Americans in my classes/program. They taught me how interesting Americans can be. Where I prefer to travel and get to know the country, they prefer to go to the club and leave for the night with a random native. It was difficult for me to form relationships with these Americans because I didn't agree with their after-school activities.
I mainly spent time by myself or with the two boys in my program whom I respected. Yet, this was a good thing for me because it forced me to form more significant relationships with those I was able to spend more time with. Please don't be "that" American who has the objective of leaving with a different guy every night. That's not the purpose of being abroad!
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
Morgan: One of my absolute favorite memories from studying abroad isn't necessarily a positive memory - but I learned so much more in that one point in time than I would have ever expected. When a couple students and I went on an excursion together for the weekend, everything had gone off well. I was so proud of myself for being 20 and planning my own mini-vacation, staying safe, and taking amazing pictures.
But on our way back to Valparaiso from San Pedro de Atacama, our bus broke down in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The trip home was a 6 step process - and this was only step one. When we finally figured out how to get to the airport, our flight had been delayed - which would essentially cause us to miss our connecting bus back to Valparaiso from Santiago (the last one for the night!).
We had no idea what to do, because we knew we needed to get back to Valpo so that our host parents would know we were safe, and so that we would not miss class in the morning (we had a test at 9 am and none of us had studied!). We had no idea who to call, or how to get home.
We were essentially alone and no one knew where we were. We had to negotiate with airline agents for almost an hour in both Calama and Santiago each before the airline agents finally paid for our taxi to Valparaiso. It was a very long night (after having woken up at 3 am for a 4 am tour that morning), and we didn't arrive at our host homes until 4 am Monday.
This situation was such a pain at the time we were experiencing it, but honestly, I loved it. I was able to use my Spanish in a very real way. I honestly think I learned more in this experience than at any other point during my whole trip. I went to Chile to learn Spanish, and with this experience alone, I learned how to stick up for myself, how to represent the American people in a respectful manner, how to communicate with authorities, and how to handle a potentially dangerous situation.
What made this experience unique and special?
Morgan: I love traveling with all that is in me. This trip was special because I was able to do just that. I did research before I arrived in Chile and when I got there, I went to a different city/part of the country every weekend. It was my goal to experience the whole country and the different subcultures within each area, and I did just that.
I loved exploring by myself. This was the first time I was completely alone in a foreign country and I lived every second to the fullest. Chile is the longest country from top to bottom, and I was able to visit San Pedro de Atacama (the driest desert in the world), Santiago (the capital), Patagonia and many places in between.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Morgan: Stay true to who you are. I don't drink, I don't curse, and I don't spend money just because. I am a Christian and a very intentional person. I would spend time with the Americans in my program, but I stayed strong and did not mimic their behavior as they so desperately wanted me to. And you know what? I had just as much, if not more fun. I learned. I didn't waste my money on silly things. I was me and I was happy.