Study Abroad Peer Mentors

Spring 2016 Peer Mentors
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. To contact the Peer Mentors about a specific question, program, or just to hear their stories email: [email protected]!

Spring 2016 SMC Study Abroad Peer Mentors

 

Alondra Gallardo Name: Alondra Gallardo
Major: Psychology
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Rome, Italy
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

It is very difficult to pinpoint the highlight of my study abroad experience, so I will instead share a few of my favorites. Early in the semester I was told that if I traded in sleeping in that I could have the chance to see the Pope, and I can honestly say that it was worth waking up early. It was such an amazing feeling to see someone who is admired all over the world and hear him give a blessing. Another amazing experience I had was that my parents came to visit me after I had finished my classes and I was their personal tour guide. It felt amazing to be able to show them all the different places I had been and all the food treats I enjoyed. It made me feel like a local, in the fact that I no longer needed to rely on Google Maps to tell me how to get to places. And lastly I am grateful for all the new people I met while abroad as well as the friendships I created that I am still holding. Studying abroad puts you in a position where you no longer just learn in classrooms but also through the people you meet and the culture you are living in. 

 

What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 

You don’t have to travel every single weekend

Take the time to be like a local and just wonder around and you’ll be sure to find a cool café or a new outlook.

Make sure you see the view through your own eyes and not always behind a camera. Yes it is nice to have pictures to last a lifetime but the memories can only be made once, go ahead and enjoy it all!

Danielle Stuart 

Name: Danielle Stuart
Major: Communication
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Melbourne, Australia 
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
One highlight during my study abroad experience was the ability to explore different parts of Australia. I love to travel, even if it was to be wandering around the city I was studying in. Melbourne was constantly holding events in the city; there was always a new festival to attend or restaurant I wanted to visit. I definitely developed a coffee shop addiction while I was in Melbourne. I went to Sydney on my week long break where I met up with my father and sisters. We visited the iconic Sydney Opera house and Harbour Bridge, spent the day at the zoo, got a little lost and wound up at a beautiful beach of Manly, and one of my favorite memories was visiting the Royal National Park. The coastal hike was absolutely stunning, unlike any hiking trail I have ever explored. Before I returned back home, I visited the tropics of Cairns. There I snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef and zip lined and went rafting through the luscious rainforest. Studying abroad was an incredible experience altogether! 
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
Try to save as much money as you think you would like to have abroad. My school did not have a meal plan and it was already a little bit more expensive in Australia (but the conversation rate is in our favor!) That way you don’t have to worry as much about debating on activities you would like to do! Don’t forget to explore the city you chose to study in. Traveling is always an amazing thing; however, try to spend enough time in the city you chose to go to! There is always somewhere new to go. Keep an open mind and be sensitive to cultural differences. It is important to remember that you will encounter people from all parts of the world and our daily routines could be extremely different from one another. Try to consider these changes to be “different” rather than “wrong”.

  Jessica Fahner  
Name: Jessica Fahner
Major: Communication, French Minor
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Aix-en-Provence, France
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
The highlight of studying abroad was the food! Living in France definitely made me appreciate the quality of food I eat. The market was my favorite place to go during lunch; everything was always so fresh. Staying with a host family allowed me to really immerse myself in the culture and I got to eat exactly how the everyday French eat. I also got to try all sorts of local cuisine and traditional plates when I travelled to other cities. The craziest thing I tried was mussels covered in cheese, and it was delicious!  
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
Try and speak the language! You’ll really benefit from it, and the locals will love that you’re trying to speak their native language. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s inevitable that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes adjusting to life abroad and getting familiar with new social norms. Keep an open mind. Living in a foreign country can be extremely different from your life in America; try and go with the flow!
Cheyanne Faulkner Name: Cheyanne Faulkner
Major: Business Administration - Entrepreneurship
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Rome, Italy
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
I would say being able to explore another country and continent by myself. Having the ability to do what I wanted, when I wanted with so many different cultures around me gave me insights as to how others live their daily lives. The learning experiences that were beyond the classroom made my overall experience totally worth it!
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
  1. Explore the city you are in! –You chose it for a reason so go experience all it has to offer!
  2. Be open to new cultures and languages. Yes, it is scary and intimidating but you can get some pretty funny stories and great learning experiences.
  3. Don’t over pack. I cannot emphasize this enough, you will buy stuff there that even an extra bag wont be able to hold, trust me on this one.
Morgan Faulkner  Name: Morgan Faulkner
Major: Business Administration
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  London, United Kingdom
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
My highlight of the study abroad experience was being able to perform with the dance company at the University in London. At the Freshers Fair there were hundreds of booths that new students were able to explore, and dance was the one that I was glad I found. After auditioning and making it, I was able to meet some of the best people from around the world. I was able to immerse myself in something that I am passionate about in a place that I was able to further explore with my new team! 
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
There is so much that you learn from your study abroad experience. One of the big tips that I would say is to go in with an open mind, try not to have expectations because what you experience is so much better than you could ever imagine. Second, I would say try new things, that’s what this experience is for! Try new food, go to a new place, or practice a new language, it will really open your eyes to other perspectives of the world. Lastly, I would say to have fun, you are there for school but let loose and find the hidden treasures of the city you are in! 
Joselyn Fillman  Name: Joslyn Fillman
Major: English
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Dublin, Ireland
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
In retrospect, my study abroad experience feels like a reel of best highlights. My four months in Ireland were the busiest, quickest, hardest, and most rewarding of my life. If I had to pick a highlight, it would be the moment that I realized I had made the right decision in coming to Ireland. I took a trip across the island to Galway, a small Irish town on the west side. I remember specifically a moment standing on a pier above the water. It was sunny and raining, something that happens a lot in Ireland. The waves were wild, the air smelled like salt and seaweed, and a rainbow framed the town perfectly. The grass was greener than you can imagine, the sky bluer. I felt light and calm, and any fears or anxieties I was harboring about being 5,000 miles away from everything I knew faded away. You’ll have the same moment during your travels, the moment you realize you have more than one home now.  
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
Learn about the country you’ll be studying in. Research the culture, the people, the best places to visit and eat and explore. The more you know before your plane lands, the more comfortable you will be and the quicker you’ll adjust to your new home away from home. Also research the education system you’re entering – chances are it will be very different from SMC and having some foresight will lessen the blow. Traveling as much and as far as possible is enticing while abroad, but try to really explore the country you’re living in. All my best memories are from trips around Ireland. You picked your country for a reason, make the most of it. Take pictures, save ticket stubs, buy the silliest souvenirs, write it all down, and make as many new friends as you can. These months will go by in the blink of an eye and you’ll miss it more than you can imagine. Bring what you can home with you.
  Joahna Cervantes  
Name: Joahna Cervantes
Major: Political Science
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Seville, Spain
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
The highlight of my time in Sevilla was walking through the historic city center everyday. At the beginning of the semester I participated in an intensive course offered by the program that allowed me to visit the cites and learn the history behind the city. Each building had its story and being able to appreciate it made my experience more memorable. There wasn’t a day I took those views for granted. There would be random moments when I would just sit on a bench and watch the locals and tourist intertwine. Walking through the streets almost felt unreal sometimes, like if you were walking through a movie set based on a different time era. Having the ability to appreciate the particular architecture of Sevilla helped me understand its significants to the rest of Spain. A city as cultured as it has so much to offer any college student that decides to study abroad. 
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
Try to go out of your comfort zone (reasonably). Being in a new city with new people can sometimes be intimidating but you’ll discover new things about yourself if you branch out. Find a buddy and stick with them. When traveling to a new foreign country or just going out on the town, find someone that has similar plans and stick to them. You’ll feel safer and company is always nice! Appreciate the history/culture the city has to offer. Though partying all through Europe is fun, make most of your visits to any city by seeing cites and/or museums. You’ll never be in that city at that moment in your life again so take advantage of the things that make the city unique. Remember a lot cites/museums offer student discounts so bring your ID! 
Dennis Wright

Name: Dennis Wright
Major: Business - Marketing
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  London, United Kingdom
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
Always a tough question, but I have to say it was the friends I made through my travels, because they're the ones who made some of my best memories and helped me learn about other cultures. It's important to learn how to communicate when you step out of your comfort zone, and these lifelong friends played a huge part in that.

The numerous foods I tried at markets and festivals were a close second!
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 

1) See above: Make new friends, especially where you live! While you’ll want to start out with people that are familiar like other SMC students, it’s important to get out and find befriend new people. It’s rare to be in an area where you are right next to people that hail from an entirely different area, culture, language, than you. They’ll be the ones to help you out when you travel! It also makes life much easier if you are on good terms with roommates from the beginning.

2) Keep it local sometimes: Remember, you picked your city for a reason! You don’t always need to travel every weekend to a new spot. I remember spending full weekends checking out new parks, festivals, markets, comedy clubs, museums, etc. all within my own city. I can guarantee you’ll find small gems in your city that you’ll cherish. All you need is to take time to find them!

3) Take some time for yourself: Do some solo exploring. It may sound a bit daunting, but that’s when you tend to learn the most. It’s an excellent time to learn more about yourself and gain some confidence. You’re on your own schedule, you can decide what you want to see, and it’s the best time in your life to exercise your independence. I did a solo trip to Copenhagen and it had some of my most favorite moments in my time in Europe.

   
  Nicole Potepa Name: Nicole Potepa
Major: Business Administration - Global
Class Standing: Senior 
Study Abroad Location:  London, England
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
It’s difficult to answer this question considering there were so many in all different contexts. Learning about different cultures and consistently hearing multiple languages was incredible in itself. Every city or town had its’ own unique touches and having the opportunity to indulge in every exceptional dish or new phrase definitely played a large role during my time abroad. Accepting that getting lost was almost inevitable made it all the more fun, and the memories I created with those I met along the way are ones that will last a lifetime. A particular bittersweet moment I had was when a few friends were visiting me, and I had brought them to the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. It was in that moment I felt London had become my city. It was wonderful recognizing how well I had gotten to know the area and how I had crossed a path so many times in a place that once had been so unfamiliar to me, and suddenly felt right at home. 
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
1. Don’t have any expectations! - Everything that is meant to be will happen. I find it important to realize that studying abroad is a different experience for everyone! This goes for not only traveling to different destinations, but one’s classes and workload as well. Keep a positive mindset, see as much as possible, but stay on top of your studies! 2. Take a course outside of your major - Take one that interests you and meets graduation or Core Curriculum requirements! I had never been a fan of horror films, but taking a British Horror Film Class although at times was frightening, was one of the best decisions I made abroad. It was easily one of the most interesting classes I have taken, and I learned so much. Break out of your shell! 3. Planes wait for no one! - The wanderlust is real, but so is your budget and your time. Be productive and make brief plans for the cities you want to visit. Meet as many people as you can, and wake up early and explore! Your time wherever you are is temporary, at least for now. Make the most of every adventure and have fun! 
Ines Sosa  Name: Ines Sosa
Major: Politics & Spanish
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Seville, Spain
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
The highlight of my study abroad experience were the times I went up to the roof of my house and looked out at the amazing view of Sevilla. These moments gave me the time to stop and think of how lucky I was to be where I was, doing what I was doing. Whether it be sunrise, sunset, or in the middle of the day, every time I went up there I saw something new I hadn’t noticed before and it was a constant reminder of how much there was for me to explore. That view is something I will never forget and I am glad I was able to enjoy it many times, both with friends and by myself.  
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
1) Although keeping a budget is important, don’t let it limit what you do. 2) Never say no to a new adventure; sometimes the spontaneous ones are the most memorable. 3) Keep a journal!
Ollie Maggi  Name: Ollie Maggi 
Major: Psychology
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Galway, Ireland
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
The highlight was probably just experiencing a new adventure everyday and not really knowing who you were going to meet or anything the country had in store for you. It was awesome hopping on a plane within 2 hours of buying the ticket, staying out at pubs all night meeting locals, and seeing some of the prettiest sights in the world.  
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
1) Have no expectations going into it, just take it a day at a time and don’t try and force your experience 2) Know that other countries are not like America. Not in their general culture, their schooling, or even the kind of people you meet. You will feel completely out of your comfort zone and that’s ok 3) Do it. Whether its exactly what you expect it to be or not, it will be an experience you wont regret having tried.
   
  Casey Stuart Name: Casey Stuart
Major: Digital Media
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Melbourne, Australia
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
The highlight of my trip was definitely the amount of festivals that happened during the time I was there. I was able to enjoy these festivals with new friends that I had made. I loved being able to go on spontaneous trips for the weekend and doing something different every weekend. No matter where you go there is always something new to like new art galleries or new museum exhibits. This trip was amazing and something I will never forget.  
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
1.Take advantage of three day weekends- plan in advance with friends on where you should go. Have a list in mind on where you want to go and plan strategically. Most importantly, have a budget on how much you want to spend. Booking tours in advance will definitely help you save! 2.Keep an open mind- try to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk. There is so much to do and something once in a lifetime opportunities! Make the most out of your time. 3.Wander- don’t always plan your days out hour per hour, take the time to just wander the streets and stumble on new cafes, art galleries, and enjoy the scenery! 
Whitney Besser  Name: Whitney Besser 
Major: Communications, minor in French
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Aix-en-Provence, France
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
The highlight of my study abroad experience was staying with my host mom. She is the sweetest person I have ever met and can proudly call her my second mother. Every morning, I would wake up and see a fresh batch of delicious cookies waiting for me on the table. I thanked her the first morning, thinking that she made the batch because it was my first day in France. As the mornings came, so did the cookies. A new type everyday: Nutella, chocolate chip, white chocolate lavender, oatmeal raisin, and the list goes on. She previously owned a restaurant, so my dinner was a new dish from her menu every night. She took time out of her busy schedule to prepare a delicious dinner every night for me and my roommate. At dinner, we would talk for an hour or two about anything and everything. My host mom only spoke French, so dinner was the time when I really learned the French language. I took all of my classes abroad in French, but I felt like I learned more French from our dinner conversations. She truly cared about me and always checked in with me everyday to see how I was doing. My experience wouldn’t be the same without her and it is comforting that I will always have a second home in Aix-en-Provence. 
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
1. Save your money before you go abroad! I was a nanny before I went abroad and saved up for all the trips that I wanted to go on. I had extra money in my bank account incase of emergencies and it was very useful! 2. Meet the locals! Break out of your shell and immerse yourself in the culture. I improved my French a lot by just talking to locals at bars and restaurants. 3. Go to your local market to buy food and different goodies! Not only will you save money but you will also taste amazing, cultural foods. 
  Tara Knight Name: Tara Knight
Major: Economics
Class Standing: Senior
Study Abroad Location:  Galway, Ireland
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
It is hard to pick on specific highlight from my study abroad experience. However, one of my favorite parts was travelling throughout Europe and Ireland. Before my abroad experience I had only been to Europe once. Yet, since I travelled abroad I feel I truly understand different countries cultures and landscapes. I have seen countless beautiful countries and feel connected to Irish culture. Study abroad has made me more aware of diverse cultures and citizens. 
What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
After spending a semester abroad I have three tips that I would like give students who are about to start there study abroad experience. One is to be open minded to new experiences. Going into a new country is scary but if one is too close minded they won’t get the best out of their experience. Another tip is to travel throughout their own country. Finally, my last tip is that home sicknesses will probably happen, but it will be okay. Homesickness will pass and the experience will always be worth the initial shock.