Study Abroad 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: smcpeermentor@gmail.com!

Spring 2019 SMC Study Abroad Peer Mentors

 

Green_Juliette

Tokyo, Japan

Name: Juliette Green
Major: Global Studies
Class Standing: Senior
Duration: Academic Year

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

So many highlights, but a big one was the food! Eating out is pretty inexpensive compared to the United States and is always quality. Japanese food is aesthetically pleasing and I never ran out of places to go. Some great memories were cooking different dishes with my housemates. Now I can make sushi, takoyaki, and okonomiyaki at home.

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

  1. Do as much research as you can before heading out to your program. This will help you get excited about things you'll see and do there. 
  2. Go with the flow! Prepare yourself mentally that unexpected things will happen so that they don't overwhelm you. The best travel stories come from these times. 
  3. Seize opportunities! Don't be afraid to try new foods, go to events, and travel to different countries. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and so you should leave without any regrets.

Contact Juliette

De Haro

Cuernavaca, Mexico & London, England

Name: Adrian De Haro
Major: Psychology
Class Standing: Junior
Duration: Spring Semester and Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

My highlight of studying abroad would definitely be being able to travel and visit so many places throughout Mexico. The city of Cuernavaca itself is also very beautiful and it was fun to be able to explore and learn more about the city we lived in.

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

  1. Pack lightly. You don't need a ton of clothing or other things jammed up in your suitcase. It only causes a hassle when you are trying to get through the airport.
  2. Don't be afraid to talk to people and try and learn some information about where you are going to go beforehand.
  3. Take lots of pictures! It's always nice to be able to remember and see all of the incredible adventures and memories you made.

Contact Adrian

Over, Gwen 

Florence, Italy

Name: Gwen Over
Major: Communication
Class Standing: Senior
Duration: Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The highlight of my study abroad experience was getting to call a new city home for three months. I absolutely loved living in Florence, and really had the best possible experience that I felt I could have. It was eye-opening for me to have to adjust to a new way of life, a new culture, and a new language. Being able to live in such a hustling and bustling city gave me the opportunity to truly get immersed in the Italian culture. Even the littlest things, like having to walk home with your groceries, eat dinner at a later hour than usual and going for late night gelato strolls had an impact on me. I will cherish the memories I made in Florence forever, and now feel lucky to call it my home away from home.  

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

  1. Do your research. Figure out which city, country and program are going to be the best fit for you. An easy way to do this is to check out their websites and get in contact with an abroad mentor!
  2. Ask all the questions you can. From my experience, there is never a dumb question, especially when it comes to studying abroad. Ask past students and the SMC IC center anything, even if you just want a packing list. The more prepared you feel, the easier it will be to adjust to your new life abroad.
  3. Keep a travel journal. I made sure to write a little bit about what I did each day and included ticket stubs, museum passes and receipts from amazing meals. To this day I still go back and read about what I did. It’s a great way to keep your memories in one place and to have a day to day record of what you experienced. 

Contact Gwen

Emily

Barcelona, Spain (NON-SMC PROGRAM)

Name: Emily Van Liedekerke 
Major: Women and Gender Studies/ JCL Minor: Spanish
Class Standing: Senior
Duration: Academic Year

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

During my time in Barcelona, I had the opportunity to create a new day each day. I explored the architecture, ate my way through the city, got lost in the tiny streets, swam in the Mediterranean, and so much more. I immersed myself in the Catalan and Spanish culture and Spanish language by living in both a homestay and Residencia while taking Spanish classes. Being abroad, I traveled to new cities in Europe (Prague was my favorite trip), met people from around the world, and grew as an individual.   

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

  1. Go outside of your comfort zone and keep an open mind when planning your study abroad experience- choose a place you didn’t expect to go, staying longer than you expected, or live in a homestay or residence with international students. Then, use this attitude for when you are abroad because it’ll help you plan amazing trips, make lifelong friendships, learn a language, and explore different cultures.
  2. Always ask for help. It can be difficult to figure out logistics for your study abroad experience all by yourself so ask questions along the way. Moreover, when abroad, it’s important to ask for help if you’re in an uncomfortable or difficult situation because they could be fixed. It’s so much better to speak up!
  3. I also want to recommend that everyone pack less than they think they need. I overpacked (big time) and I regretted it because after spending a year in Europe I had a lot of extra clothes, gifts, and souvenirs. I had to buy an extra suitcase and traveling home was difficult!

Contact Emily

Caitlyn Pearson

Rome, Italy

Name: Kate Pearson
Major: Psychology & Italian
Class Standing: Junior Academic Year
Duration: Academic Year

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

My highlight was being able to travel as much as possible. Experiencing all the new cultures and talking to locals was an amazing experience. It’s an experience everyone should have.

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

  1. Look into where you’ll be living! Seeing what my apartment and city looked like on Google Maps not only made it seem more real but helped me to navigate around when I first got there.
  2. Travel as much as possible. Now is the time to do it and in Europe, it’s really cheap! Check Skyscanner. They have an option for anywhere, and I found some of my best, and cheapest, trips with it to places I never thought I would go.
  3. Don’t say no. If someone asks you to do something that you wouldn't normally do at home, try it abroad.

Contact Kate

Hutton_Siarah

Florence, Italy

Name: Siarah Hutton
Major: Communications Minor: Psychology
Class Standing: Senior
Duration: Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The highlight of my abroad experience was being able to travel and experience new cultures with my Saint Mary’s friends. We have an even stronger bond than before as we were able to grow together through such a unique and eye-opening experience. Those experiences created even stronger friendships with memories that will last a lifetime… also the food :)

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

  1. Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone but know you will be so happy you did! The growth that comes from studying abroad will serve you for the rest of your life.
  2. Take advantage of cheap travel and see as much as you can but don’t forget to appreciate the country you’re studying in. Students often get so caught up in travel they neglect the place they get to call home for the semester/year.
  3. Document your time in every way you can. Journal, photography, social media, etc. I go through old pictures, videos, and memorabilia from my time in Italy routinely. It’s a reminder of a special time in my life and with every picture, I’m able to remember more details about my trip that I had forgotten over time.

Contact Siarah

Kerry-Anne
 

Galway, Ireland

Name: Kerry-Anne Loughman
Major: English - Creative Writing
Class Standing: Senior Fall Semester
Duration: Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The biggest highlight was simply watching and feeling Galway go from a dot on a map to a real home. I loved my everyday routine – from walking to class along the Corrib River to exploring bookshops, pubs, coffee shops, and more in the city center. My favorite memories have to do with going out to the pubs with my friends and dancing to live music – not just a weekend activity in Galway – or sitting in a coffee shop with my laptop or a good book for a few hours. By the time I left, I truly felt like I was leaving home again.

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

  1. Resign yourself to the fact that you will figure everything out as you go. Studying abroad means taking a gigantic leap of faith – you cannot know everything about your destination or your new life abroad before you leave, and you cannot prevent any bumps in the road from happening as you go. Everything will work out! Be patient!
  2. If there’s an opportunity to do something in your new country that you also do at home (like a hobby, sport, etc), do it. It will curb your homesickness as well as give you an appreciation of how people in your country do the thing differently. I joined the choir at NUI Galway – it was smaller and more relaxed than our choir at SMC, but being able to keep that consistency in my life abroad helped me feel more at home (and helped me to make new friends with similar interests!)
  3. Check your American pride at the door. You are there to experience a new culture, which means you’ll be adjusting to a new way of life. Embrace everything that’s different about this new culture and appreciate it for all the ways it is like and unlike living in the States.

Contact Kerry-Anne

Arakaki_Claire

Florence, Italy & Shanghai, China

Name: Claire Arakaki
Major: Art & Business
Class Standing: Senior
Duration:  Spring Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

Being able to travel and experience new things every day was definitely the highlight of my experience. While I was abroad, I was able to meet people from all around the world and learn about their cultures and perspective on life. Leaving the bubble that is California, I was able to change the way I see the world and become even more appreciative of what I have. One of my favorite trips I took in China was to Guilin with a group of my friends. We stayed at a hostel for less than five dollars a night, picked our own chicken for lunch, and bargained our way back to town via motorcycle cart and river barge. It was an incredible experience and I loved every second of it.

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

  1. Bring your own medicine abroad. When you’re in a new environment and constantly traveling it’s really easy to get sick. Being sick is the worst thing that can happen when you have a trip planned out for the upcoming weekend. When I went abroad I brought airborne, Theraflu, Advil, Pepto-Bismol (especially in China), Dayquil/ Nyquil, and sleeping medicine for jet lag.  You can always buy medicine abroad, but I like having medicine that I know and trust on hand.
  2. Download offline apps for traveling. When I was in Europe I didn’t have data and had to rely on wifi. I used offline maps such as maps.me to navigate different cities while I was traveling. I also downloaded google translate for the specific language in the country. Wifi can be surprisingly hard to find and the last thing you want to do is get lost in a foreign country.
  3. Bring your favorite seasoning/snack with you. It's not something you generally think about when you pack but you’ll be thankful for it later. More often than not, food is a major thing people crave and that causes homesickness. Grocery shopping abroad is generally very different than the Safeway down the street. The selection is more limited and isn’t the same that you’re used to in America. The seasonings in countries are very different from each other and the Americanized version of it. For example, pasta in Italy is completely different than pasta in Olive Garden. Italy. while has great Italian food, does not have the greatest Asian food. During my semester in Florence, I had my mom send me some Asian seasoning in a care package and it curbed a lot of my homesickness for the rest of the semester.

Contact Claire

Lauren

Florence, Italy

Name: Lauren Torres
Major: English
Class Standing: Senior Fall Semester 
Duration: Fall Semester 

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The highlight of my study abroad experience was getting to experience the seasons changing in Florence. Each month began to feel different as the weather changed as if real life there as setting in and I could feel myself becoming more and more comfortable with the city. The Christmas season in Italy was something out of this world, a memory I will truly hold onto forever. I never thought that I would in Florence, let alone another country altogether. Getting to walk home in the evenings or at night under the Christmas lights that lined nearly every street seemed like something out of a movie and a memory I’ll never forget.

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

  1. Get lost. One of the better decisions I made in my first few weeks in Florence was testing my memory on how to get back to my apartment, or on my way to class (if you have time to kill). It is so easy to get lost in new cities why not enjoy it for a little and go down streets you have never seen before! You might end up finding the hole in the wall places you'll keep going back to for the rest of the semester.
  2. Travel as much as possible! Country-hop if you can but also take advantage of the cities that surround where you're staying. Not only will you see far less touristy areas, but you’ll be able to experience everything your country has to offer and dive deeper into the culture there.
  3. Do not be ashamed of documenting every second of your trip. Do not forget to live in the moment while you're there but also don't be afraid of taking endless photos or videos of what you're doing! Those are photos and memories you’ll be able to look back on for years and years.

Contact Lauren

Newton_Elizabeth

London, England

Name: Elizabeth Newton
Major: Accounting & Technical Theatre
Class Standing: Senior
Duration:  Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

I had so many highlights while I was in London, it was truly life changing. My overall highlight had to be getting to live in another country and learn that there are so many differences between the United States and England. With this in mind, I would not have gotten to spend so much time in another country if I did not study abroad. I am very grateful for all that I learned.

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

  1. Be open to new experiences and new people, always are ready for adventure.  
  2. Plan to stay in the country you are studying in. It is fun to travel, and I do recommend it, but you only get to live in that country as a student once. Getting to immerse yourself in another culture is an amazing experience. 
  3. Know that you are still going to school and you will need time to study. Although you can definitely travel, know that you will need to allocate time to studying, throughout your time there.

Contact Elizabeth

Alejandro

Rome, Italy

Name: Alejandro Gallardo
Major: Business Marketing
Class Standing: Junior
Duration: Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

Integrating myself into the city of Rome and getting to know the local culture. Also traveling almost every weekend to a new country with friends.

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

  1. I would advise planning trips ahead of time in order to ensure the cheapest travels costs.
  2. Try to get to know the city you stay in rather than going to the same areas repeatedly.
  3. Take advantage of every day because it goes by too quick!

Contact Alejandro

Fadrilan_Christian

Rome, Italy

Name: Bailey Fadrilan
Major: Kinesiology Minor: Business Administration
Class Standing: Junior
Duration:  Spring Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The highlight of my experience was simply just having the opportunity to live in a different country for an entire semester. I met some amazing people, who I now consider some of my closest friends, and I was able to travel to so many different countries. I also ate some amazing food and lived some of the most memorable days of my life.

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

  1. Do your best to learn the language. Even if you don't have space to take a language class, download apps such as Duolingo and practice as much as you can. Don't feel discouraged to talk to the natives in their language, and even if you don't master the entire language, it still helps to know key phrases and vocabulary. It beats the alternative of trying to communicate in English the entire time, and it will make the entire experience that much better.
  2. Try to travel as much as you can. Before you leave, think about which places you would want to go to, but also learn to be flexible. You may come across a time where you might not be able to go to the place that you wanted, but don't give up yet because I guarantee that you will fall in love with the place that you end up going to. The world is filled with so many hidden gems and places off the beaten path that most tourists don't ever get to witness. As long as you do your research and are prepared for where you're going, you're bound to enjoy the destination. 
  3. Push yourself to go out and try new things. Studying abroad is all about expanding your horizons and going out of your comfort zone. Don't waste any moment, even if that means just taking the time to walk around and explore your home city. You think that the semester is long, but it goes by fast, and you won’t get those opportunities back. There are going to be days when you just want to sit at home and watch Netflix or sleep the entire day because you’re “tired” from going out the night before, but you have to push through. By the end, you’ll end up wishing that you had just a little more time, so take advantage of the time that you do have.

Contact Bailey

Juniper Terrones

Tokyo, Japan

Name: Juniper Terrones
Major: Business Marketing Minor: East Asian Studies
Class Standing: Senior
Duration:  Spring Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The highlight of my study abroad experience was experiencing the cherry blossoms at the Hamarikyu gardens. It’s always been a dream of mine to see the cherry blossoms bloom so being able to go was an experience of a lifetime. We also got to try some delicious traditional Japanese food that was inspired by the festival itself. Even though it was a lot of walking and was killer on the feet, being able to explore the gardens and see all the sights that day were well worth it.

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

  1. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. There are going to be a lot of uncomfortable experiences but don’t let that keep you from having a great time!
  2. Be social and friendly, try to go to as many events as possible to make new friends from around the world!
  3. Do as much research as you can before and if you want more information feel free to contact your peer mentors for advice before or during your trip. I am always open to answering any questions.

Contact Juniper

Casey

London, England

Name: Casey Nicholl
Major: Communications
Class: Standing: Senior
Duration: Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

I took a train trip through Spain right after I got to London and visited three different cities by myself. I had never traveled alone before, but I loved having the freedom to go at my own pace and see everything that was important to see. My favorite place was Madrid because of all the museums and history of the city! Taking trips by myself and meeting up with other SMC students was definitely the best part of my study abroad experience. 

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

  1. Do things you've never done! Use your time abroad to be adventurous and never say no to new experiences! Some of the best parts of my trip were spontaneous or unplanned.
  2. Watch movies that take place in your city! I took a class that was all about London in movies, and it was so cool watching those films and then going to different spots around the city and seeing things in real life -- I learned a lot more about the city than I thought I would. 
  3. Collect things from all the places you visit. I was on a budget my whole time, so I collected postcards from all the places I went to different castles, artwork, and landmarks. This way I got to remember all the places I saw without having to spend a ton of money on souvenirs. 

Contact Casey

Reese

Seville, Spain

Name: Reese Ortega
Major: JCL/Spanish
Class Standing: Junior
Duration: Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The highlight of my study abroad experience was getting to really be immersed in the Spanish culture and improving my Spanish language skills. I feel that I especially got to do this living in Sevilla and in a home-stay with my host mom who cooked authentic Spanish meals and only spoke Spanish. I fell in love with the city and the laid-back pace of life in Sevilla. And also to live pretty much in the center of the city a 20-30 minute walk away from anything I feel I got to really experience how a true Sevillian lived.

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

  1. Go with an open mind. Try not to set any expectations as hard as that may be, but you’ll be experiencing a whole new culture and meeting many different people it’ll surprise you at how different things are. This can be a good thing or bad thing but I think if you keep an open mind you’ll be open to learning and trying new things and it’ll contribute to making the best out of your study abroad experience.
  2. Take pictures and don’t be afraid to take too many. I have tons of pictures and was lucky enough to have my friends share their pictures with me but I always wish I took more. Even if you’re afraid of taking too many or looking like a tourist you definitely won’t regret all the pictures and memories you captured after you’ve left.
  3. Spend as much time getting to know the city you’re studying in. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, go on walks and explore as much as you can! As great it is to travel to other places while you are abroad there is nothing like getting to know the city you’re studying in and you want to take full advantage of your study abroad experience by becoming a local in a new country!  

Contact Reese

Arianna

Florence, Italy

Name: Arianna DeLillo
Major: JCL/Communications
Class Standing: Junior
Duration: Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

There were so many different things about study abroad I loved it’s hard to pick
one thing to highlight. I feel like living in Europe really encompasses all the aspects that
I loved about my study abroad experience such as traveling, the Italian lifestyle,
experiencing a new culture, and meeting new people. Traveling was my favorite thing to
do on the weekends because it allowed me to explore all these places that I had only
ever dreamed of seeing. Living in Italy let me experience the Italian lifestyle and culture
that I fell in love with and continue to miss and emulate back home. Sometimes, it
doesn’t feel real and you have to pinch yourself.

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

  1. Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone! Studying abroad is all about doing new things that you wouldn’t normally do and creating amazing memories that you will cherish forever. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere and take advantage of all the opportunities that you have to go to new places and experience new things
  2. Plan and do your research if you want to travel during your time abroad! Find a good group of people and start planning trips immediately if you want to travel. Tickets and places to stay get expensive the longer you wait. Also, do research about where you want to go and find places that you know you want to see and buy tickets for big things because they might be sold out if you buy them the day before. So, plan as soon as possible for weekend trips and do research about where you’re going so you can hit all the places you want to see
  3. Pack smart! Do not over pack because you will not wear everything you bring. You will probably buy stuff while you are there too, so bring an extra smalls suitcase or leave some room in your suitcase. Also, most airlines in Europe are really strict about carry-on policies so bring a small carry on that is light to travel on the weekends.

Contact Arianna

Thomas

Aix-En-Provence

Name: Thomas Jean George O'Connor Pannetier
Major: Business Marketing
Class Standing: Senior
Duration: Summer

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The greatest highlight of my study abroad trip was being in one of the most beautiful cities in France while the World Cup was going on. Singing songs, swimming in fountains and experiencing that incredible energy after we won, will be one of the greatest experiences in my life.

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

  1. Buy a rail pass, get on a train and go to as many countries as possible. Stay at hostels and meet as many people as you can! Traveling by yourself will give you the opportunity to do what truly makes YOU happy. (Meet an Italian and Kiwi in Munich, then change your plans from Brussels to Budapest to see a festival with them. Then travel to Croatia, and end up in Italy eating fresh fish with your new best friends. Who knows… it’s your opportunity).
  2. Don’t be afraid to get into an uncomfortable state. This is a great opportunity to breathe and learn how to manage yourself. You will learn a great deal about YOU, as well as valuable critical thinking skills that this whole experience is about.
  3. Ask for help. Everyone along your voyage will be delighted to give any assistance they can, so don’t be afraid to help yourself! Those trains in Eastern Europe are a bit confusing.

Contact Thomas

Morgan

Rome, Italy

Name: Morgan Greenup
Major: Communications
Class Standing: Junior
Duration: Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The highlight of my study abroad experience was having the opportunity to call Rome my home for the semester and being able to travel to so many countries while experiencing new cultures. During this time I feel that I found a greater sense of independence and confidence while roaming the streets of Rome. Another highlight was living with my best friends, two of which I did not know before being assigned to live together. One of my favorite parts was being able to enjoy all the amazing food in Italy... it doesn't get much better.

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

  1. Be adaptable and go into this experience with an open mindset. That will help you make the most out of whatever comes your way. 
  2. Do as much as you can with your days! You only have this opportunity once and it goes by so fast. Go to the market, eat as much as you can, wander around the city and pop into shops... all of it. You don’t want it to end with you having a list of things you didn’t do/wish you would have!
  3. Spend time in the location you are studying in and attempt to live like a local. Try to uncover all the things the tourist and the locals do. You will gain such a greater appreciation for the place you are living in. It is amazing to travel on the weekends but one does not be a tourist in the place you are calling home for the semester.

Contact Morgan

Dante

Seville, Spain

Name: J Dante Calcagno
Major: Business, concentrating in Digital Media and Marketing
Class Standing: Junior
Duration: Fall Semester

What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

The highlight for me was to be able to take pictures all around Europe and explore places I would never get to encounter otherwise.

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

  1. Be deliberate choosing where you want to study. Though I loved Sevilla, it is important to take into account what kind of experience you are looking for. For me I wish I chose a place with easier access to outdoor activities like hiking and nature. Had I done a bit more research on where to go I probably could have found a program that fit my personality needs a bit better. 
  2. Get pictures of yourself. Maybe it is because I am really into photography, but I took a TON of photos but I rarely got a photo of myself. Looking back I would have liked to have some memories of me in a specific place as opposed to just a picture of the place. So don’t be afraid to ask people to take pictures of you.  
  3. Don’t set too specific of expectations. You never know what your experience will be like until you are there. Personally I had a pretty specific idea of what my experience would be like, so I was a little let down when it was different. That is not to say I had a bad experience but it probably would have been better to go into it with a bit less specific expectations.

Contact Dante