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Student Spotlight


SiengMolizabeth Sieng
Location
: France
Program: SJSU Exchange at Sciences Po Lille
Term: Spring 2022 Semester
Major: Political Science major and a Legal Studies minor. 
Year: 3rd year

Why did you want to study abroad? 
There are a bunch of reasons I wanted to study abroad, for one, my brother actually studied abroad with SJSU in Australia and he loved it, so it was something that I always thought about doing before I even entered college. Also discovering that Science Po Lille was an option made me want to do it even more. As someone who is interested in attending law school after undergrad and pursuing a career in international law, studying abroad, especially at such a prestigious university in France, made sense to me. Aside from the educational and career benefits studying abroad has, I also felt like it's important to immerse yourself in cultures different from your own. Even though as Americans, especially coming from San Jose, we are extremely lucky to be surrounded by such diversity, it truly isn't the same when you don't just see a different culture but you actually live in it. So I guess to sum it up, I wanted to study abroad because it sounded cool, would probably look cool on my resume and law school applications, and for personal growth. 

What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?
The most challenging experience would definitely have to be dealing with homesickness. Growing up with 9 older siblings and constantly being around family, it was extremely difficult to learn how and get used to being completely by myself. Not to mention being completely by yourself in a country where you don't speak the native language! Although I definitely do have my days in which I feel like sleeping the entire day to pass time by, I just have to constantly remind myself that I may not get an opportunity to do something like this ever again and that it's a temporary thing so I should try my hardest to get out, live, and enjoy everything while it lasts. 

Any advice to potential study abroad students?
My advice would be, as cliche as it sounds, embrace the opportunity to be abroad. Don't be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone, of running into obstacles, or failing. Another piece of advice is scholarships!! Take advantage of the scholarships offered by your major department, by the study abroad office, by the government, etc! It'll be much more fun when you don't have to focus and stress about finances and can just experience everything!  

I received $4,000 from Gilman and $5,000 from the Department of Political Science from SJSU (John Gilbert Scholarship for International Studies). I also am a financial aid recipient which covered my tuition as well as gave me around $4,000 in grants. I created an excel sheet with all of my potential expenses and this was more than enough to cover everything, so I didn't apply to many other scholarships. I didn't really need to budget on anything coming to France. I was able to buy a Disneyland Paris annual pass, the Eurail global pass, and other leisure things while still being able to live comfortably. 

How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic? 
With some courses still being online and being in a different country, it certainly is hard to resist the urge to go out and explore new things instead of being on top of school work. But what really helps is creating a little schedule, planning which days will be dedicated to studying and which days will be dedicated to going out, as well as staying connected with classmates. 

What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community?
I try to go out whenever I have down time. Whenever I don't have class or just have readings to do I'll take my laptop to cafes or bars and stay there. I also follow the university's international student clubs. They often organize fun events that enable people to explore the community through a local's perspective.

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic? 
Listening to and following the rules and mandates they have in place is a big one. Aside from that, it is important to just stay cautious, aware, and respectful of your surroundings. Avoid things or situations that'll put you at an unnecessary risk.

GallardoIngrid Camberos Gallardo
Location:
 Florence, Italy
Program: CSU Florence Center
Term: Spring 2022 Semester
Major: Political Science 
Year: 3rd year 

Why did you want to study abroad? 
In my high school there was a program called American Field Service (AFS) and we would exchange with different high schools across the US, as well as receiving year long exchange students from around the world. I’ve exchanged to Japan, Boston, and Chicago and due to that I have always wanted to study abroad for a year once I was in college. 

What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?
The most positive experience studying abroad is the amount of travel once can get done. I’ve travelled to 18 different countries while being abroad and I still have a whole semester left! 

Any advice to potential study abroad students?
My advice to potential study abroad students is to get a Eurail train pass. This train pass is how I managed to create an efficient travel itinerary that would allow me to go around Europe for a lower cost. (They have student discounts) 

How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic? 
My classes have all been in person and that’s what has helped me a lot while being abroad.  

What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community ?
Meeting local people and keeping communication while my time abroad has been such a fun way of saying in touch with the local community. As well as going to the same restaurants, because they now know my the names of my friends and I. 

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic?
My only tip would be to respect the guidelines of each country. Some countries don’t require mask, and some do. I tend to follow the rules of the country in which I am in.
LawMichelle Law
Location:
 South Korea
Program: ISEP/Ewha Womans University
Term: Fall 2021-Spring 2022 Academic Year
Major: International Business with a concentration in marketing.
Year:  2nd year

Why did you want to study abroad? 
I wanted to study abroad because I've always wanted to see the world outside my home. When I was young, I traveled to many other destinations with my parents, but I never got to see much. I've always wanted the chance to explore a foreign country on my own pace. 

What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?
I think getting accustomed to my new surroundings was definitely the first challenge. When I first arrived in South Korea, I felt out of place. Even as an Asian person myself, I wasn't used to seeing so many other Asians all in one place. Sometimes, I faced some discriminatory comments and was judged by how I look Asian, but cannot speak Korean. Even so, I gained many precious memories during my time abroad. I met many international friends, from places like South America to Europe. I got to witness many different cultures, opinions, and habits all in one setting. I also got to immerse myself in a foreign society, learning and imitating daily routines from the majority. I think the most interesting thing that happened to me was being able to experience "day trips". By train, I traveled to different cities located across South Korea and experienced the best of both worlds, countrysides and cities, all in one day. 

Any advice to potential study abroad students? 
To future study abroad students, I have a few tips. First, try to learn a bit of the language before going abroad. Whether it's conversing with the taxi driver or asking for basic directions, learning a few Korean phrases certainly helped me get around. Second, search and download commonly used applications before you go. It will help relieve some stress in finding information abroad. Lastly, do not be afraid to ask for help. I know the fear of being judged, but that's all part of the challenge. There are many people who are glad to help and who knows, you might make a new friend along the way. 

How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic? 
I try to take 5 classes maximum because I know I want to balance the time spent between academics and traveling. Before traveling, I make sure to finish assignments and stay caught up with lectures and announcements. Before midterms, I start a study week with friends and we usually meet up at cafes. Not only is it great for having that social time, but also for having accessibility to a source that can help with studying. 

What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community?
Meeting new people was one of the major goals I had, so I applied to a few mentoring programs and clubs. There, I met many locals who were enthusiastic about meeting foreigners, so we often set up lunch and dinner appointments to talk about our culture, opinions, and differences. I also met many locals through classes. Groups would often meet over dinner to talk and discuss about class projects and that led up to friendships.

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic? 
Staying safe is very important and the most important thing is following guidelines. That means wearing a mask at all times, try avoiding crowded areas, and getting vaccines. While studying abroad, people were required to have vaccine passes to eat at restaurants and use local facilities.


Diego Lefebre
Diego Lefebre
Country Location: England
Program / University Abroad: SJSU Exchange/Liverpool John Moores University
Term Abroad: 2022 Calendar Year (Spring-Fall 2022)
Major: Business Administration
Year: 3rd

Why did you want to study abroad? 
The reason I wanted to study abroad was that I wanted to have a multicultural experience.

What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?
The most interesting aspect of my study abroad experience is the amount of Erasmus and international students  I have met that make the Study abroad experience more eye-opening as I get exposed to various languages and cultures.. 

Any advice to potential study abroad students? 
One piece of advice I would give to potential study abroad students is to do research on the university they are applying to and more importantly the city as some cities are more student-friendly making your experience more exciting and enjoyable. 

How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic? 
While being abroad it can sometimes be hard to balance school and your personal life as going out with friends, meeting new people, and exploring new cities take time away from studying, something that has worked for me is keeping a small journal with projects and assignments deadlines and a daily to-do list to finish all of my work and have the weekend free to explore. 

What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community?
The way I have been interacting and getting to know the local culture in Liverpool is by making friends with local students from my classes and going out with them to pubs and museums. Another way I have been getting to know locals and British culture is through football or soccer. In Liverpool, the passion and pride they have are emblematic of how important soccer is in British culture. I have also joined some clubs from my university and it has been a great way to get to know local students and demystify stereotypical ideologies about England by having a broader understanding of the people and their culture.

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic? 
Traveling abroad during the pandemic was a challenge in itself as the entry requirements to enter some countries required a negative PCR test within 72hrs, a passenger locator form, and proof of vaccination. Although it may get overwhelming, having a list of the required documents and preparing in advance makes traveling much easier. One thing that helped me a lot while traveling was having a cellular data plan before going abroad because as soon as I landed in the UK I could use my phone to get around making me feel safer and have an overall better experience while traveling.


Bridgette Chang
Bridgette Chang
Country Location: England
Program / University Abroad: SJSU Exchange/Nottingham Trent Univ
Term Abroad: Spring 2022 Semester
Major: Business Administration
Year: 3rd

1. Why did you want to study abroad? 

Studying abroad has been my goal since the start of university career; since I was young, I've felt that I've missed out on childhood/teenage experiences as I was extremely busy with academics, sports, responsibilities, and extracurricular activities, and once I've started my time at SJSU, I thought that would be my chance to make up for the lost experience of freedom to do anything I wanted. However, my small taste of this independent journey was taken away immediately once the pandemic hit; I realized that this time I had living at home and having more time to work, allowed me to save up and research my way to study abroad. Though I've traveled quite a bit, this opportunity was important to me as this is my time to explore my independence as well as combine the college experience with cultural exploration..

2. What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?

The positive about studying abroad in the UK is that though there are many similarities that keep me comfortable, there are many aspects of cultural differences that keep my experience interesting and eye opening. Aside from the accents and the cold weather, I've found differences in social interactions, academic preparations, food choices, and even clothing style.

3. Any advice to potential study abroad students? 

My advice to potential study abroad students is to not be intimidated by any doubts or difficulties you may think lie ahead. Many students around the world are participating in study abroad programs which shows that you won't be the only one who's new to the area. There have been many doubts in my mind when deciding to study abroad, but I found that all of those worries work out with all of the resources provided, and the experience you gain at the end of it is much more worth it.

6. How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic? 

Studying abroad during the pandemic was one of my biggest worries, however I've felt the pandemic hasn't put any affect into my studies here so far; luckily the UK has had the pandemic under control for the most part and has nearly ended the need for masks. The school provides cleaning wipes and small seminar groups for classes that help reduce the spread of germs, as well as providing free test kits, which eases my worries and allows me to focus more on my studies knowing that the school is providing resources for us. However, I still use extra precautions wearing masks and using hand sanitizer/washing my hands often as there are still health risks.

7. What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community?

The city I'm studying in holds 2 big universities and several high schools, which makes the surrounding shops and establishments student friendly and interactive. Many clubs and establishments are affiliated/work with the university(s) to create safe and fun events for students to enjoy, which I've found to be well into the trends and entertaining. 

8. What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic? Some tips for staying safe and healthy while studying abroad is:
  • *health* prepare for the weather (our bodies are used to the weather of home, so any drastic changes are going to make an impact on our health)
  • *health* bring medicines from home (there are possibilities that medicines are either expensive or inaccessible in the country you're going to, so it's best to just bring some from home if possible)
  • *safety* purchase a sim card or figure out a data plan (going to a foreign country you'll need to find a way around/research something/contact someone, having access to data at all times can prevent hassles and mishaps *buy sim cards outside of the airport; it's cheaper)
  • *safety* have an emergency contact buddy (whether it's a friend or roommate, have someone's contact number in case of an emergency; having someone from the area available to call is safer and efficient than calling someone from your home country during an unlikely event of an emergency.


Yesenia Guzman
Yesenia Guzman
Country Location: France
Program / University Abroad: SJSU Exchange/EM Strasbourg Business School
Term Abroad: Spring 2022 Semester
Major: Business Administration (Marketing concentration)
Year: 4th

It’s been truly an adventure, with its highs and lows, but overall positive and pleasant. I am very grateful for the opportunity and experience :) 

1. Why did you want to study abroad? 

I always aspired to study abroad in order to explore a new country, learn from a different culture, and overall grow from the new experiences. As a first generation student, I decided to study abroad as a way to broaden my perspective on the world and the possibilities that exist outside of my familiar comfort zone - in order to become more culturally aware and capable of adapting to new environments. I also really wanted to meet and connect with students from diverse backgrounds, faculty with different teaching styles, and a community with a different lifestyle. I knew studying abroad would be a personally, academically, and professionally enriching experience - allowing me to accomplish my own goals as well as gain the knowledge and experience to support others in their own intercultural experience goals.

2. What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?

One of the most positive experiences abroad has been celebrating my birthday with international friends in France

3. Any advice to potential study abroad students? 

My advice to potential study abroad students would be to truly be intentional about the country you want to go to, and when planning, inquire & ask for support from students who have studied in your country/university of choice in the past. This way, you have some someone who can offer advice and experience during the application and pre-departure preparation.

6. How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic? 

All of my classes abroad are in-person, therefore in order to manage my academic success during the pandemic, I use the tools and practice the habits I developed during remote learning. I connect and collaborate with my classmates, check my emails daily, organize deadlines on my Google calendar, and communicate/ask for help from professors when needed. To support my overall academic success, I ensure to take care of my mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Journaling, going to the gym, eating home-made meals, hanging out with friends, checking in with family back at home keep helps me stay grounded and motivated.

7. What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community?

I try to interact with the local community by practicing my French when ordering food, buying groceries, or asking questions at local stores or events. I aim to visit museums and participate in more local events when they begin in France. 

8. What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic? 

Some tips for managing your health and safety when traveling during the pandemic would be to carry extra masks, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, and disinfecting wipes.


Abigail Alcain
ABIGAIL ALCAIN
Major: Biological Sciences
Term Abroad: Spring 2022
Program / Location: SJSU Exchange University of Roehampton, UK

Why did you want to study abroad? 
Studying abroad looked like a great opportunity for me to experience new places and traveling as well as meeting new people from different backgrounds. I also wanted to use this opportunity to advance my career by connecting with the professors and programs that I’m able to participate in.

What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?
A surprising experience that I have noticed is that I live on one of the four campuses here, and I live on the campus that’s far away from the main campus. I was surprised that this college was separated from all the others and distinctly far from the main one. But all my classes and labs are in my current college anyways so I don’t have to go to the main campus unless it’s for a social event or for the library. Another challenging experience is the transportation, all transportation is taken by bus or train, and I am not used to public transportation as much as I am now because that is how I get everywhere, and especially most places near me take about 30 minutes to an hour to get somewhere.

Any advice to potential study abroad students?
For potential study abroad students, would probably be to study what norms take place at that specific country beforehand. And definitely make sure all the financials are taking care of (such as if you need a new phone number/SIM card, a bank, transportation card). Also make sure you know where the nearest hospital is just in case.

How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic?
I have managed to keep my academics controlled bye renting all the textbooks and materials required for my classes. I also depend on the online moodle (CANVAS) for notifications from professors as well as accessing the lectures and videos required.

What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community ?
I have definitely met many people within the community of my area, and they have helped me explore around London and we try new foods and visit in new places and overall had fun!

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic?
Make sure to have your insurance on hand at all times, especially on your phone in case you have any major injuries. As well make sure you tell someone where you are at and never go alone.


Alycia Low
ALYCIA LOW (alum)
Major: Public Relations and Minored in Professional and Technical Writing
Term Abroad: Fall 2017
Program / Location: SJSU Exchange University of Roehampton, London, UK
Position Title: Recruiting Coordinator
Employer: Roblox

How did your study abroad experience help you with your coursework once you returned to SJSU?
Overall I think my experience helped me become more confident when it came to social interactions with my classmates. It also helped me see things from a different perspective. Having gone abroad, I recognized that there were other ways to approach questions I had about the world.

How did your study abroad experience help strengthen your job prospects?
It definitely helped me stand out as a candidate and was often a topic of conversation when interviewing. They would ask about my experience abroad and how that has shaped me. For me, studying abroad has really shaped the way I think about my career. It's what led me to my position as a Study Abroad Student Assistant, which has helped me realize I want to go down this career path in recruiting/HR.

Please describe any skills you learned abroad that you are applying in your current academic, professional, or personal life.
Going abroad and having that experience has taught me how to have more grace and compassion for those around me who are from different parts of the world. While I was in the UK/Europe, I was a minority (as an Asian-American) and it helped me appreciate other cultures, including my own, even more!

What is the most memorable experience or moment from your time abroad?
During my last couple of weeks in the UK, I had the opportunity to travel alone in Scotland. This was probably one of the best decisions I had made. It taught me how to be self-sufficient and brought a whole new perspective on travelling. I had the unique experience of eating alone for consecutive meals, for example, and even asking fellow tourists/locals for directions or photos. Through this trip, I was also able to fully embrace the boldness I had learned over the past few months abroad, which helped me to be more confident in my social interactions and even my decisions.

What other experiences do you wish you had optimized while abroad to help you in your career path?
Although I had a great time in London, I do wish I had the opportunity to try living abroad for a longer period of time and maybe even challenge myself to go somewhere out of the ordinary. I also wish I was told that it's okay not to travel all of Europe in that one semester, and that it's okay to just sit and absorb what my home city has to offer. I was constantly travelling every weekend that I don't feel like I truly got to experience London and all that it has to offer.

Any other advice to current Spartans about maximizing the study abroad experience? 
As I mentioned before, I'd highly encourage students to take time to really take in your home city/country. There's so much your city has to offer and your program will be over before you know it, so really take it in. I think there's a lot of pressure people put on folks (at least travelling to Europe) to explore as much as you can, but I really wish someone told me this before I planned all of these trips. This was my first time to Europe and I wish I had taken the time to get to know the folks and areas around me.


Kianna Vargas
KIANNA VARGAS (Alumni)
Major: Psychology
Year Abroad: 2019-2020 Academic Year
Program Location: CSUIP / Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile / Santiago de Chile
Current Position: Language and Culture Assistant
Organization: Spanish Ministry of Education

How did your study abroad experience help you with your coursework once you returned to SJSU?

My university in Chile was the number one university in the country meaning that my coursework was extremely rigorous. Attending this school taught me how to better my study happens and how to advocate for myself to professors.

How did your study abroad experience help strengthen your job prospects?
My time in Chile has made me a unique candidate for all jobs I have applied for. Studying abroad teaches you skills you could never learn in a traditional academic setting.

Please describe any skills you learned abroad that you are applying in your current academic, professional, or personal life.
The number one skill I improved on abroad is my Spanish language skills. Although I was confident in my Spanish before arriving to Chile, living and studying there was a humbling experience. In Chile, my Spanish improved immensely, and am now able to use it in all aspects of my life.

What is the most memorable experience or moment from your time abroad?
My most memorable experiences abroad were the solo trip I took to Colombia for a month, hiking Patagonia, and visiting my Chilean friends in their hometowns. A huge perk of studying abroad in the Southern Hemisphere is that the seasons are switched so if you study there for a year you get a summer break. My summer break was from December to March and I used this time to travel across Chile and other parts of South America (Colombia, Peru, and Argentina).

What other experiences do you wish you had optimized while abroad to help you in your career path?
I wish I had volunteered and participated more in school organizations. Due to COVID cutting my time short, I was unable to.

Any other advice to current Spartans about maximizing the study abroad experience? 
Say yes as much as possible, don't be afraid to be outside your comfort zone, and try your best to make local friends!