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!

Fall 2018 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.

De Haro

Cuernavaca, Mexico

Name: Adrian De Haro
Major: Psychology
Class Standing: Junior
Duration: Spring 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 of 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

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 into 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. 

VL_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!

Caitlyn Pearson

Rome, Italy

Name: Kate Pearson
Major: Psychology & Italian
Class Standing: Junior
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

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.

Loughman_Kerry-Anne
 

Galway, Ireland

Name: Kerry-Anne Loughman
Major: English - Creative Writing
Class Standing: Senior
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.

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 everyday 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. Its 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 experience home sickness for. 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 seasoning 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.

 

Shanghai, China

Name: Jonathan Chan
Major: Business Administration
Class Standing: Senior
Duration:  Spring Semester
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?
To be updated.

What are three tips that you would give someone before studying abroad? 
To be updated.

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 sometime to stay in the country. 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.

Huber_Hope

San Ramon, Costa Rica

Name: Hope Huber
Major: Environmental Studies Minor: Art History
Class Standing: Senior
Duration:  Fall Semester
What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

Integrating into the community I lived in was the best part. Of course traveling throughout the rainforest, learning about dense biodiversity, ecology, and women's economic development was fantastic, but the community love I experienced brought me the greatest enrichment. Building connections and relationships while studying abroad is priceless.


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

1. Research your destination so that you know what you want to get out of your experience; gain a grasp of the cultural expectations, the language, the geography.  Be active in your adventures!

2. Keep an open mind. 

3. Don't be afraid to burst out of your shell. The entire idea is to expand your horizons, and sometimes that takes bravery. Talk to new people, visit places you wouldn't imagine visiting, open books/topics that you have never reached. You'll be happy you did.

Fadrilan_Christian

Rome, Italy

Name: Christian 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.