Meet Kendra Ansotigue. She is an EWU and Study Abroad Alumn who is now working at International Services Abroad (ISA) as a Student Services Advisor. I had a chance to ask Kendra some questions about two of the study abroad trips she took while she was an undergrad — the first to Spain, and the second to Costa Rica. She has even given us some videos of her trips!
In 2012, Kendra studied in Salamanca, Spain. She writes:
Spain was always a country that I dreamt of going to. So when I decided that I was interested and wanted to study abroad, Spain was the first country that came to mind. After attending the study abroad fair Fall 2011, I noticed that Spain was a popular destination for students as well as a very diverse variety of cities to study in. Hearing what the different representatives had to say about the variety of cities to choose from and their amazing culture is also what helped me decide that Spain was the place for me.
My study abroad experience exceeded my expectations to the fullest. I learned that even in uncomfortable situations, I survived. And those uncomfortable situations are actually the one that helped me grow the most. The culture, the people, and the beautiful buildings and scenery were absolutely breathtaking. This experience I was able to prove my independence not only to my family, but also to myself. I proved to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to, and that I have so much left of the world to see. This trip sparked my passion for new cultures, meeting new people, exploring the unknown, and ultimately traveling.
Adjusting was not a problem for me. I was so excited to be there and explore all the new places and streets that I didn’t have time to not enjoy being there, or the difficulty of adjusting. The university environment was a little bit different in the sense that professors could show up 20-30 minutes late and continue class normal without students leaving before he arrived. Other than that, the classes were not hard to adjust to.
During my study abroad trip, I appreciated the diversity the most. If I wanted to step out of my comfort zone to explore the unknown, I could. I could meet people from all over the world and not just Spain, I could try new foods (some that I liked, some that I didn’t), I could listen to different types of music, as well as travel to different cities. Something was always new.
What I found most challenging was the language barrier. Before going to Spain, I had taken Spanish in high school but did not retain any of it. So going to a country without knowing a lot of the main language, it was difficult. However, that is also how I learned to communicate with people in other ways and where I improved my Spanish as well! I think that going there without knowing the language helped me grow in a way I wouldn’t have, had I of known the language.
I would have to say my most memorable moment would be stuck in between two. The first would be “Nochevieja”. It is a big celebration that happens in the Plaza Mayor where over 30,000 people come together to celebrate the New Year before they head home for the holidays. It was a very memorable moment because it was our last night in Salamanca, so it was a great way to spend time together celebrating our trip as well as the New Year together. The second would be my trip to the Sahara Desert. Riding camels in the sand and sleeping under the stars in the desert was definitely a big highlight of my trip because it was such a surreal experience that words cannot even describe the beauty and serenity of it.
As for my advice to students who want to study abroad, I say just do it, don’t hesitate. To take chances and do things that will make you step out of your comfort zone, because those are the experiences that you will see the most growth. Take that dance class, go to a language exchange meeting, explore that building you have been waiting to explore and do not take advantage of the time you are there. Make the most of it. Also, do not spend most of your time talking to your friends back home, it will only take away from your time in country. Go make friends from different countries and explore with them. You will enjoy your time so much more than sitting in your room and wishing you were home.
This experience completely changed the way I see the world. It changed my views of how I see different cultures, people, and diversity. It changed my view of the world in thinking that traveling was so far out of reach that it was not possible to having dreams of traveling to explore different countries and experience new cultures and knowing those dreams are capable of being reached.