Come and meet our Study Abroad Peer Mentors!  They have all participated in a study abroad program and can help guide you through the decision-making process as well as share any tips about making the most of your experience abroad.

Fall 2014 SMC Study Abroad Peer Mentors

Kelsey Wong

Name: Kelsey Wong (Lead Peer Mentor)
Major: International Area Studies
Minor: French
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location: Aix-en-Provence, France

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
One of the highlights of my study abroad in the south of France was the friendships I made. It was a joy to finally put my French into practice in everyday life from discussing politics with my host mom, to talking with my friends, to ordering food in a restaurant. Finally, the delicious food is no joke, it's absolutely marvelous! I had the best macarons while in Paris, and I never regretted treating myself to a nice meal while abroad.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
It's important to realize that everything is a teaching moment that you can grow from. I sometimes found myself struggling in situations such as a language barrier. As a French minor, I wish I could have put myself out there more to speak French. I think learning new languages is a challenging but rewarding task while abroad.

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Julia Ayeni

Name: Julia Ayeni
Major:
Sociology
Minor:
French
Class Standing:
Senior
Study Abroad Location:
London, England
 

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
Picking just one highlight is nearly impossible, but one that stands out in my mind was the ability to travel throughout continental Europe during Queen Mary's month long "spring break". I loved the ease and accessibility of being able to hop a flight to Italy, or take the train to Paris just because. This allowed me to not only absorb just British culture, but it tested my ability to travel and problem solve independently. Another highlight was the accommodation; at Queen Mary, study abroad students live in first-year housing with other British students. I feel that it allowed me to have an authentic experience with people who were experiencing QMUL (and London) for the first time as well. I was able to gain a perspective of city life and life in the UK from people who actually lived there, not an outsider's perspective.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
When I was preparing for my semester abroad, I had been looking at everyone's pictures on Facebook of all the incredible places they had traveled, and felt that I had to emulate their experiences. For someone who is on a substantial scholarship from Saint Mary's, I soon came to realize that I would not be able to afford to go to all the places on my travel bucket list, or be able to go out every single night. The thing I wish someone had told me prior to moving abroad is that you are still a college student who will most likely be on a budget (some more than others depending on where you study), and it is OKAY if you don't see sixteen cities over the span of one month. It's OKAY if you can't make it out with your friends to the club with a 20€ cover every Thursday night. You are not alone in the financial struggle, and there are still plenty of ways to have a fulfilling study abroad experience without breaking the bank (ie Megabus and Ryanair).
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Kristina Baddour

Name: Kristina Baddour
Major: Communication
Minor: Art History
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location: Rome, Italy

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
Living and traveling throughout Europe was not only a highlight of my study abroad experience but memories I'll never forget. Living in Rome was almost like living in the world's largest museum, you constantly find yourself running into historic monuments on a casual walk to the grocery store or to your favorite restaurant. It'll wouldn't be right to not mention the food, the best way to experience the culture of Italy, or any country for that matter, is to eat everything that you can get your hands on; the only thing left to worry about is the cravings when you come back.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
I wish I had known more of the Italian language before traveling abroad, the first few weeks were more difficult considering the language barrier and I felt more limited. Had I known the basics in conversation I would have felt more confident doing the small everyday tasks like ordering food and asking for directions. While its common that people also speak English, I though it took away from the experience of living in another country by not speaking in their native language.
 

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Amanda DeOliveira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Amanda DeOliveira
Major: 
International Business
Minor: 
Communications
Class Standing: 
Senior
Study Abroad Location: 
Alicante, Spain

 
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
The highlight of my trip would be staying with my host mom. She taught me so much about Spain and made me feel welcomed. My host mom made me feel like her own daughter.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
I wish I would have known how much easier it was to plan trips to other countries. Traveling through Europe is very cheap especially if you plan in advance.

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Alyssa Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Alyssa Hall
Major:
Business Administration with an International Concentration
Class Standing:
 Senior
Study Abroad Location: 
Rome, Italy

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
There were so many highlights, it's difficult to choose. But I would have to say that the people and friends I met while abroad where the main highlight. I had such an amazing group of people in my program. We all got along really well which made traveling ten times more fun. The friends I made and the people I met while abroad really shaped my experience. If I did not have such an amazing group of friends, traveling to all the places I did travel to would not have been nearly as much fun or as memorable.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
I would have liked to have known how much I was going to miss Italy upon my return. Of course I was warned, but I had no idea how much I was going to miss it. And I do miss it, if I could back and do it all over again, I would.

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Tayler Harriman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Tayler Harriman
Major: 
Global Studies (Europe Focus)
Minor: 
History
Class Standing: 
Senior
Study Abroad Location: 
Aix-en-Provence & London

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
The highlight of my study abroad experience was having the opportunity to become a part of a global community of students and making wonderful friends from different countries, backgrounds, and cultures.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
Something that I would have liked to have known before studying abroad, would be a more in depth profile about the host universities and the differences in the education systems in each area.

 

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Annie Holland
Name:
Annie Holland
Major:
Sociology
Class Standing:
Senior
Study Abroad Location:
Cape Town, South Africa

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
One of the highlights of my study abroad in the Cape Town the friendships I made. I was happy to be able to meet people who wanted to adventure into the nature of the Cape Town area and also people who wanted to volunteer and communicate with the locals. I loved being able to live with two local students as well as a girl from my program. This allowed for me to get the full experience. Before going to South Africa I had no idea what the culture was like. But, once I was able to immerse myself, the food helped me to get an idea of the culture. Cape Town's food is influenced by Indian or Cape Malay food, DELICIOUS!

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
I would have liked to know more about the surrounding suburb that I was living in and also more about the University of Cape Town. Since the university is so large, I felt overwhelmed when I first got there and would have liked a little more of an introduction

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Palak Iyer 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Palak Iyer
Major: 
Politics
Minor: 
History
Class Standing: 
Senior
Study Abroad Location: 
 London, England

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
Being able to casually stroll by the Globe Theatre, eat fish and chips in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, or grab a coffee by Big Ben and the London Eye. The amount of beautiful, significant history I was able to encounter on a daily basis was beyond amazing! Also, my other favorite part was getting lost with new people, yet feeling completely at home. Even though I was in a new place, London turned out to be my home. I have met some of my best friends there! It’s crazy how fast you can adjust to a place if you pick the right location.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
Something I wish I had known before studying abroad: Choose a University based on what you want to accomplish academically, even though it is really easy to fall in love with one based solely on its location. The different Universities have eclectic rigor levels and programs to offer, so pick accordingly!

 

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John Morgan McCalister

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: John Morgan McCalister
Major: 
Economics
Minor: 
Business Administration
Class Standing: 
Senior
Study Abroad Location: 
 Dublin, Ireland

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
There were so many highlights to my trip abroad it’s nearly impossible to pick one, but the music was outstanding no matter where I went throughout Ireland. I went to numerous pubs throughout Dublin and the rest of Ireland and nothing compares to the feeling of singing from the top of your lungs and dancing with friends. To go along with the music, the food and drink was fantastic in Ireland. The entire time I was there I don’t think I had a bad meal and the Irish cooking is delicious. Nothing stateside has been able to compare to my experiences in Dublin and I would love to go back sometime soon.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
I seriously underestimated the size of the campus at UCD. I don’t think I had a class under 100 people and it was a big time shock coming from the small campus at SMC.  I know that this experience was common for the business and economics majors studying abroad, while more liberal arts majors had smaller classes. Besides the classes I think a general guide to getting around Dublin would have been wonderful before getting there because the worst day in Ireland was the first day. Being groggy coming off the plane ride at 6am made figuring out the bus system in Ireland a horrendous experience and unnecessarily stressful because it wasn’t all that complicated.

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Name:
Jonathan O’Connor
Major: International Business
Minor: Economics
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location: Dublin, Ireland

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
Being able to join clubs and society’s that made it easier to adjust. By joining these I was able to meet people right away and they ended up being some of the best friends I made while in Ireland. When people are going over I would highly suggest join a couple clubs! Besides just meeting people some of these clubs can help you travel around the country or more of Europe. My club just traveled around Ireland, but my friend in the snowboarding club was able to go to Switzerland for 10 days!

What do you wish you could have known before you studied abroad?

Make sure that you prepare for all types of weather you will experience. In some of these countries, especially Ireland, you can go from sunshine and warm weather to rain in a day. Just remember it is for four months and clothes are a lot more expensive out there.

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  Thuy Phan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Thuy Phan
Major: 
Business Administration
Minor: 
Accounting
Class Standing: 
Senior
Study Abroad Location: 
Tokyo, Japan


What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
The friendships that I was able to make while in Japan were the highlight of my trip. Whether it was shopping, cooking dinner, taking a trip or having late night conversations, these little times spent with my friends made the trip worthwhile. I know that I always have friends when I go to Japan again. Of course the amazing scenery, beautiful language, interesting culture and wonderful food were just icing on the cake.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
Of course everyone tells you that the weather in Japan is very different from California but I didn’t know just how different. Living in the Bay Area my whole life I wasn’t exposed to humidity so experiencing the humidity in Japan was a surprising experience. I definitely would have pack more appropriate clothing ahead of time.

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Olivia Saalsaa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Olivia Saalsaa
Major: 
International Area Studies
Minor: 
Italian Studies
Class Standing: 
Senior
Study Abroad Location: 
Rome, Italy
 

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
One of the many highlights of my experience abroad was the opportunity to increase my proficiency in the Italian language. Although I was nervous about speaking to people in Italian when I first arrived in Rome, I eventually became more comfortable and found that I got a lot out of even simple conversations and felt very much a part of the local community when I was able to join in or start conversations with Italians.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
I would say that I was well prepared before studying abroad, and did a fairly good job of establishing a budget, anticipating the painful exchange rate and the cost of adventuring. However, I would have liked to be reminded to not get caught up in traveling to a different country or city every weekend. This is an easy thing to do while in Europe as everything is nearby, but it is also expensive, therefore making it difficult for students on a budget to keep up with those going away every weekend. I would strongly encourage prospective study abroad students to explore the city in which they are studying and living, to find a favorite cafe, park, or market. These little things are what I came to appreciate most and now miss the most.

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Abigail Smith 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Abigail Smith
Major: 
Liberal & Civic Studies
Minor: 
Women's and Gender Studies
Class Standing: 
Senior
Study Abroad Location: 
Dublin, Ireland
 

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
Experiencing the archaeological history of Ireland was something I will never forget. During my time abroad I saw monuments which were built before the Pyramids of Egypt, and they were absolutely incredible. Ireland is truly one of the most gorgeous places in the world, and that beauty combined with a fascinating history makes it one of the most incredible places I have ever visited!

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
I would have liked to have known more about the logistics of getting around in Dublin when I arrived. Simple things like finding a place to buy sheets to sleep on and where the best place is to buy groceries would have definitely helped during those first few days.

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Trijohn Tran 

Name: Trijohn Tran 
Major: Politics
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location: Melbourne, Australia

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
One of the many highlights of my experience was my spring break trip to Sydney! I had an early morning flight from Melbourne, and I was so tired on the train into the city. I remember looking out the window, and suddenly, the famous Harbour Bridge is right in front of me, and the Sydney Opera House is right there on the other side of Circular Quay. My first view of Sydney, two world famous landmarks. It's a sight I will never forget.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
Before coming to Melbourne, I looked at pictures and talked to other students who have been there. But I didn't know what to truly expect. I came with an open mind, and it made everything a little more special. There was always something fun to do, unique events going on, and new places to explore. Having just a basic knowledge of Melbourne, I was able to experience everything on a grander scale.

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Krystina Valdovinos

Name: Krystina Valdovinos
Major: Communications
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location: Rome, Italy

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
Eating dinner at Dar Poeta with all of my best friends abroad, Visiting Moulin Rouge in Budapest, Hungary

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
What I would've liked to know before going abroad: I should have brought comfortable/more shoes with me.....we walked absolutely everywhere in Italy!

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Paola Vergara

Name: Paola Vergara
Major: Communciation
Minor: French
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location: Aix-en-Provence, France

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
Though the entire trip changed my life, the highlight of my experience was the little quotidian moments of normal life in France like grocery shopping at the local market, getting coffee and a croissant at the local cafe before class, figuring out where to buy stamps or cold medicine or how to order Chinese food. Even the most mundane things were extraordinary.

What would you have liked to know before you studied abroad?
I wish I'd known how expensive everything would be and how to budget my money better.

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