“My biggest regret in college was not studying abroad!” I was constantly told by my mentors that their one regret in college was not studying abroad. At the time I didn’t understand why that would be a regret and I didn’t know the benefits of going overseas. I questioned why someone would want to leave the U.S. considering how challenging it was for my family and I to migrate from Mexico to the U.S. for a better life. After much convincing and thinking about studying aboard for 3 years I finally applied to the University of Valencia in Valencia, Spain. Studying abroad was one of the most significant experiences I had during my college career. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship gave me the opportunity to experience the world as my classroom. Studying abroad experiences are important because of the immense amount of knowledge and personal growth that is gained. Studying abroad contains a lot of exposure, experience, personal and professional development.
As a Gilman Scholar I was fortunate enough to spend a semester studying in Valencia, Spain. I had exposure to a country with unique outlooks, incredible customs and rich activities that expanded my way of thinking. I experienced a new style of education that was challenging but I learned to be more analytical and challenged my way of thinking in which I learned new methods of study and research.
Studying abroad is an opportunity to meet people from across the world. I learned about different food, religions, traditions and cultures outside of my host country because of the people I met abroad. Shared experience of living fully immersed in another culture made the friendships I developed particularly poignant and enduring. Studying abroad in also important because it will train students to be future global leaders who are effective, respectful of other cultures and political and economic systems, and willing to take a stand for the world’s welfare, not just what benefits a specific country. Students who study abroad will better understand their own cultural values and biases and will develop a more sophisticated way of looking at the world.
As a Gilman Ambassador I hope to communicate my experience though meaningful conversations that engage other students and inspire them to study abroad. I hope my experience is heard throughout my community by the presentations I do to students and staff at the community college and university. Through social media I hope to make a visual impact of the life changing experience I has overseas. Being a Gilman Scholar means I have the responsibility to represent the scholarship and the international experience that has opened my eyes to new cultures, history, and new languages. As a Gilman Scholar, my goal is to help students understand that studying abroad should be part of their college experience regardless of their background. I will always advocate for international education because it truly is a life changing experience. Overall, I learned a lot more about myself in that one semester than I did in the three and a half years in my home school because of the unique space in which I learned, experienced, and spent exploring another culture. It gave me more confidence, it taught me self-reliance and stretched the parameters of my comfort zone.