Life seems to surprise us the most when we already made our own plans. Gettysburg College was my last college visit of the summer as a rising senior. I was burnt out from other college visits and ready to enjoy that last week before school, but I was signed up for a tour at this school that was recommended to me by a member of my church. When I woke up that summer morning, I didn’t know what I was in for. I didn’t know that I would fall in love with the college upon stepping onto the campus, or that this was going to be my home for the next four years of my life, and I most certainly did not know what those four years would entail. All I knew was that I wanted to study foreign languages and travel, and so I did.
Gettysburg’s immersive, no-English language classes can be intimidating, but helped accelerate my learning, causing me to speak more in a semester than in five years of school. Being a language-lover, I chose to major in Spanish and French and additionally took Portuguese classes. By the time I was getting ready to go abroad, I could have a conversation with people in three different languages other than my own. My language skills improved beyond the classroom with activities such as French movie night, Portuguese conversation group, and Spanish table, which is a weekly opportunity to practice your conversational skills over lunch at Servo.
Studying abroad will make you grow up. You will need to become more independent than when you went away to college for the first time.
You learn new life skills, like reading a map, interacting with people who live in a culture completely different from yours, and handling stressful last-minute situations (e.g. when you almost miss your bus back home or your flight for a weekend trip). You will begin to understand how an international student at your school feels, but thankfully, you will also have other students who are also going through similar experiences. All of that being said, you will have your own unique experiences based on who you are as a person and what steps you take to shape your time abroad.
I chose to study in Madrid the fall of my junior year. While I was there, I attended Spanish-French language exchanges on my own and met a great group of people who also dedicated their time to learning French. I also documented my trips on YouTube and my blog. I now have dedicated both of those to giving advice based on what I have learned about studying abroad and traveling in general. Topics range from what to do about a cell phone to the most important life lesson I learned: learning from others who are more experienced.
In the spring, I studied in Nantes, France, where I spent more time living like a local, joining fitness classes, doing an English-teaching internship, taking local university classes (including Korean), and continued traveling, although not as much as the first semester. I got to know Nantes well, and made lasting friendships. I even got to use my Portuguese there when I met a Brazilian couple after getting stuck in the church bathroom during my first visit (funny story).
Taking local university classes made me grateful for going to Gettysburg. Class sizes were larger, and it was a lot harder to get individual time with a professor. Even so, I did have the opportunity to develop a good relationship with my Korean professor at the Université de Nantes.
A combination of all of these experiences has helped me choose some potential career paths.
While I am not completely certain about what I want to do, my experience teaching English in Nantes and tutoring a French student in Spanish revealed to me an interest in teaching that I never knew I had. Thanks to the staff members in both of my programs, I would also like to work with students coming into the United States to help them adjust to the new culture, language, and atmosphere. One thing is for sure: I want to help others whether it is through teaching, speaking, or writing, as I do in my blog entries.
Read Pegarella’s blog.
Learn more about the Center for Global Education.
Develop citizens able to contribute and lead in a global society.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Carina Sitkus, senior assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803
Posted: Tue, 20 Sep 2016
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