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: Junior
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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Annie Holland
Name:
Annie Holland
Major:
Sociology
Class Standing:
Junior
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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Name:
Jonathan O’Connor
Major: International Business
Minor: Economics
Class Standing: Junior
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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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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