Jeremy Gaviola Quero

Jeremy Quero

Name: Jeremy Quero
Major: Engineering Technology
Program: Business and Society – Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences – Rotterdam Netherlands

My name is Jeremy Quero, I am an Engineering Technology focus on Manufacturing Systems and my minor is Business. I’m just another student from SJSU that likes to play video games, listen to music of any genre that is catchy, watch movies and shows specifically anime, and go on adventures. I studied at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (RUAS) for the spring 2023 semester. Going on the program was definitely an experience that any student should do. I did something out of my comfort zone, I got to understand the culture of the dutch and the many other cultures that were present, and most importantly I got to travel across Europe with the friends I made in Rotterdam. To any student who reads this, Shoot your shot and take a risk because this is something that is bigger than you are and helps you evolve individually as a person.

1) GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad?
To understand how the culture of Netherlands operate and how to succeed in another country. I wanted to challenge myself by living somewhere whereas I have no prior experience living. To live and to survive on my own. Professionally on taking on the challenges that the Host University gave me and taking it head on and succeeding.
2) PERSONAL GROWTH: What was the biggest impact that your study abroad experience had on you?
I would say the biggest impact it had on my was rediscovering my own culture of not just being an American citizen, but remembering my roots of my people of being a Filipino man. Also living alone and adjusting to the environment to overcome and to succeed. Having an overall different view of how other students from different countries work and apply the positives to my own ethics.
3) ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad?
research and presentations, To ensure success I would take initiative and take action by making the first move and going out in the field to make observations. applying this will give me confidence.
4) CAREER: What skills did you learn/sharpen during your study abroad experience?
The skills I learned and sharpen would be focusness, resiliency, and perseverence. Focusness: since being out here with independency, I would like to have fun and do fun activities with the friends I made out in Rotterdam. That being said when you want to have fun , you have to put in the work. I would make sure I finish every assignment before heading out. Reseliency: with a new environment, theres new school culture and sometime you have to make gold to what’s given to you. There would be times during the program where the students would often feel confused as the professors would not communicate with each other and tend to give us information on the assignments that wouldn’t align. I would ask questions and try to give out the best execution of assignment as I possibly can. Perseverence: With being alone and starting over again in a new society. This made me have to step out my confort zone. I made new friends and it made me take more initiative in and outside of the school. I was able to connect to students all over the world from coming from countries like Germany all the way to Indonesia. This allowed me to explore more cultures other than Dutch culture.
5) COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How has your immersion impacted your perspectives on the world?
People and universities from different cultures work way different. There is no one way of learning things as different countries have their own way of teaching and living.
6) FUTURE: How has study abroad prepared you for your future?
This prepared me not just in school but in life. How I see things now is different than how I saw things 6 months earlier. Going foward into the future, this tought me to be more independent and gave me more confidence in my school methods. Meeting new people helped me understand that everyone works differently have their own journeys. I personally will challenge myself by taking more risks to become more successful.
7) TIPS: What advice would you give to a future Global Spartan?
Advice I would give to future global spartans would be take initiative and challenge yourself to be not just a better student but a better person overall in their journey of wherever country they go. Don’t be scared of taking risks and to always stay committed to the things they do. These type of opportunities come and go so make the best out of it and have fun!

Breanna Dulay

Breanna Dulay

NAME: Breanna Dulay
MAJOR: Art/Digital Media Art
PROGRAM: Germany – SJSU Exchange – Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd (Schwäbisch Gmünd School of Design)

BIO: Please tell us about you and why you chose to study abroad.

My name is Breanna Dulay, I’m currently a senior Digital Media art student and I had my study abroad experience during Fall of 2022. I completed my exchange program at Hochschule für Gestaltung(HfG) Schwäbisch Gmünd in Baden-Württemberg, Germany for one semester. I took courses specializing in interaction design, but also got a chance to take courses from other sectors of design, from product to communication.

The first time I considered studying abroad, my interest was piqued by one of the many study abroad program booths at the welcome week for first year students. The students at the booth shared their experiences, how it enabled them to grow, what they learned, and about all the opportunities that their exchange program offered. This was already enough to reel me in, but as I continued my self research coming into my later years at SJSU, I developed more specified and concentrated reasons for wanting to study abroad. Although I enjoyed the courses I took at SJSU, the theoretical nature of my courses left me feeling stagnant and wanting to seek more practical, real world experience, a characteristic I found in the courses at HfG.

For me, the study abroad experience was a challenge of personal growth in which I could put myself in new situations and an new environment that would enable me to learn. Another opportunity that an exchange program offered would be the chance to meet and get to know people with vastly different experiences from across the world and learn from them, share and compare our world views, and network with them.

Ultimately I applied three times for this program, and got in all three times, however unfortunately the first time was canceled due to covid when I applied in 2020. The second time I had to cancel due to personal reasons, but fortunately the third time, my circumstances had aligned and I was able to go through my exchange semester last Fall and I am forever grateful that my persistence paid off so that I was able to go on this journey.

CAREER: What skills did you learn/sharpen during your study abroad experience?

Reflect on how your study abroad experience and the skills, knowledge, or networking has enhanced or contributed to your life back on campus or home.

My semester abroad enabled the develpoment of both technical skills and soft skills, though I found it especially helped me sharpen my soft skills. For instance, I was able to substantially develop my skills in interpersonal communication due to the nature of my courses. The structure of these courses involved group work for the entire semester. This definitely helped with developing necessary communication skills as I was collaborating with different groups for each class multiple times a week. Just a few skills I learned included how to negotiate effectively, present ideas concisely, resolve conflict, and adapt accordingly. Fortunately, my program allowed many opportunities to build connections which enabled me to connect with many different people from across the world and I found this especially within the international group of exchange students that formed at the start of the semester. This also helped with developing my intercultural communication skills as there were challenges such as language barriers and cultural differences/norms in which the solutions were different for each person. Through discussion and by working with each other, we learned the nuances of each other’s cultures and built our understanding of each other which was also beneficial to how we communicated thereafter in our respective project groups.

Another soft skill I sharpened, was the ability to network effectively and with confidence, and I learned this largely by example. One groupmate of mine had a very effective way to network, to which she had gained three different internship offers just through conversation. I was in awe of this, especially when she told me that she had little relevant experience for any of these internships. When I asked about how she was able to do so, I was able to compare our manner of networking and note down what I should apply. The most important piece of advice she shared was to utilize the ability to reframe your experiences in a way that highlights one’s potential as a promising employee. Though effective networking is something I am constantly learning how to improve, I was able to utilize this specific advice to improve my networking skills, which ultimately did help me to get a referral towards the end of my program.

Alongside my soft skills, I was able to substantially develop my technical skills with the courses I took. HfG is a school that prioritizes practice over theory and prior to my semester abroad, my courses at SJSU had been mostly theoretical. Although it took me time to adjust to the different learning and teaching style, I developed and learned so much about current necessary skills/trends relevant to my academic and professional path. I was new to many of the programs and methods used in the courses, and there were more than a couple times where I had to learn a program and method on the go and apply it immediately to a project. Despite the stress of doing so, it ultimately boosted my ability to design and prototype projects effectively, to the point where I felt I had learned more about industry standards and techniques during this one semester than I had before.

GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad?

Reflect on the personal, academic, and professional goals that you had set out to achieve on your study abroad experience?

As cookie cutter as it sounds, a big personal reason I wanted to study abroad was to be able to work on my self development. I knew that in an unfamiliar environment by myself, I would not just learn about the culture, but I would also get to learn about myself without the outside influences I experience in my daily life. I could test myself in situations I had never been in before, such as living alone, learning where to look for help in a new environment, or how to find solutions for issues I have never had.

The major driver behind my reason for studying abroad, was the chance to take courses that were more specialized in a specific subset of design and courses that were taught in a way that would be close to gaining real world experience in an academic setting. When I was still researching universities to study abroad at, HfG was always at the top of my list due to the nature of the courses offered that aligned with my academic desire to experience more practical and design focused courses. My experience in these courses ultimately helped me hone my concentration for future plans of my academic and professional journey.

As for professional goals, I set my goals prior to focus on networking, learning from a mentor, and to try for an internship or chance at a referral. Specifically, I wanted to learn how to reframe my view as an applicant and how to improve my portfolio for specific careers. Though I ended up not going through with my goal for an internship, I was able to get a referral from one of my mentors which has helped my professional goals.

6. PERSONAL GROWTH: What was the biggest impact that your study abroad experience had on you?


What I felt had the biggest impact on me was the opportunity to connect with many different people across the world. During my time abroad, I was able to have discussions with many different people which exposed me to a wide variety of opinions, backgrounds, and cultures. This gave me the chance to learn and reflect on opinions and ideas I had never really spent the time myself to consider or even challenge before. I feel very fortunate to have met the people I did as every conversation we had or time we spent together gave me the chance to learn a little bit more and challenge my world views.

ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad?

Share what courses you chose to take abroad and the strategies you used to ensure your academic success. How has the experience impacted your academics now that you have returned to SJSU?

I am a Digital Media Art student at SJSU, but at the Hfg I took courses that specialized mostly in interaction design. list courses briefly and explain here. Mention strategies for academic excess, but note that it varies among colleges/countries. I will admit that it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to return after my exchange semester due to a couple factors. One being the difference in semester end/semester start dates(sjsu started before the end of hfg’s semester), living situation(some complexes will only allow fixed cancellation dates), and work schedules. Ultimately I do not regret staying longer as it is also something I anticipated and was ready for in the event that I had to postpone my original graduation date.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How has your immersion impacted your perspectives on the world?

Again I feel very forunate that my program offered a welcome week and formed an international student group because this allowed all exchange students to form a little community that became very close knit over the semester. There were a lot of discussions that took place that deepened my perspectives on the world because I and everyone else was eager to share their experiences and opinions with each other. Overall, there was a very welcoming and mutual want to understand and learn about the other. It helped me push past “first meeting anxiety” which helped me become more open to other people, especially if they are new because I’d like to extend that kindness onto others. As a commuter to SJSU who is also working and attending full time, I don’t get to participate that in community activities outside of my personal life or my workplace, so being in a community of people who are similar in terms of being in the same program/field, yet varied, was definetely a welcome experience.

FUTURE: How has study abroad prepared you for your future?

Studying abroad has been an experience that has helped me grow immensely, personally, professionally, and academically. Being put into new situations and experiences in a foreign country has helped me mature, sharpen my skills, and learn in and out of the classroom. Besides sharpening my soft and technical skills, my experience abroad has prepared me by steering me in a direction in which I can focus on and has helped my personal path become clearer than before. One of the most important parts of my experience was getting the opportunity to participate in specialized and practical courses. My experience in these courses has developed my interest in the specific sector of interaction design and specific careers in that field, which has helped shaped important decision for my future, career wise and academic wise, as I search for internships and look into secondary programs after I graduate from SJSU.

TIPS: What advice would you give to a future Global Spartan?

To a future study abroad student, I can advise the following, starting with the importance of a backup plan. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a step by step back up plan, but it is likely that not everything will go 100% according to plan, and having a backup plan can still establish some control over your plans. I feel it is also important to keep in mind that even if things don’t go according to plan, it is also fine to understand and accept it as a learning experience.

A general piece of advice regarding travel is that if you want to go travel something or do a specific activity, to just do it as soon as you can. Time passes by very fast and it can be common to postpone it and plan a trip/activity for another time. I’ve done this myself and by the end of my program experience, I realized there is a high chance that you will not actually go do it later on, in my case due to a lack of time and proper scheduling.

The last piece of advice I would give which I would argue is also the most important, is to read everything very carefully and even if you feel it is annoying to do so, it is better safe than sorry to check more than once. This especially applies to things such as rental agreements, because your landlord might say one thing while the website or contract says another, and if you don’t adhere to those rules, complications can definitely arise.

Katherine Huang

NAME: Katherine Huang
MAJOR: Business Administration/Marketing
PROGRAM: ISEP Tokyo National University

BIO: Please tell us about you and why you chose to study abroad.

I’m Katherine Huang, and I studied in Japan in Fall 2022 as a third year business marketing major. I came to SJSU the fall of 2020 when life was heavily impacted by Covid-19. My first two years of university were compromised due to the pandemic. Going into my third year, I was set on taking opportunities whenever I could. After talking to a few friends about their amazing experiences abroad, I only grew more excited. Eventually, I chose Japan, because I have always been intrigued by their culture, such as their food, car scene, cultural festivals, public transportation, nature/national parks, etc. I wanted to put myself in an unfamiliar environment to see what I’m capable of and to challenge myself to grow. Spoiler alert: I grew. A lot. And now I have precious memories of my time abroad. It was a lot of work, but I don’t regret any of it. I would do it all again in a heartbeat! It was truly one of the best choices I ever made for myself.

CAREER: What skills did you learn/sharpen during your study abroad experience?

Reflect on how your study abroad experience and the skills, knowledge, or networking has enhanced or contributed to your life back on campus or home.

I was placed in an environment that pushed me to grow my soft skills. The saying is true: You get out what you put in. Once you’re abroad, you have to put yourself out there and take risks. I was nervous about making friends and building a community with people so different from me. I didn’t want to miss out though, so I took opportunities to talk to people in the dorms, in class, around campus, and even when I ran into them at the train station. I was able to meet people from all walks of life—people from other cities, states, and countries. We still keep in touch, and there’s a mutual understanding that we’ll be there to help each other if we’re ever in the same area.

Additionally, I still keep in touch with a professor! We bonded over a shared passion for Japanese sports cars, and he introduced me to another student who showed me around the local car scene. Being able to talk and network is a skill that I was able to hone, and it is arguably one of the most important skills for marketing majors. Now, I feel much more comfortable and confident initiating conversations.

GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad?

Reflect on the personal, academic, and professional goals that you had set out to achieve on your study abroad experience?

Personally, I wanted to branch out and meet new people. I was looking forward to a different pace of life and connecting with a new community. I didn’t just learn about Japanese culture, I met people who taught me all about their cultures and countries. It was a beautiful bonding experience meeting people and celebrating our differences just as much as similarities.

Academic-wise, I was excited about being on a completely new campus with new faces, new professors, new faculty, and courses that aren’t available at SJSU. For example, I was able to learn about Japan’s culture and society. Not only was this course fun, but it was also very helpful. I plan on working in Japan in the future, so learning about the culture was insightful.

Regarding professional goals, I was interested in observing Japan’s work culture first hand. There is no doubt that the work ethic in that country is well known, and I wanted to experience it and become inspired. Before I went abroad, I felt pretty burnt out in a lot of areas, including with my career. My goal was to come back to the states with renewed vigor, ready to give 100% to my career and education.

PERSONAL GROWTH: What was the biggest impact that your study abroad experience had on you?

I truly feel like I came back wiser and braver. Being abroad pushed me to be fearless and spontaneous. I’m graduating next spring, and the reality of adulthood is starting to set in. The unknown is daunting, but I feel brave enough to face it. Japan started off as completely new, unexplored territory for me, but within four months, I was calling it home. My experience in Japan has taught me that I’m capable of much more than I had ever imagined.

I also have a newfound gratitude for things in the US that weren’t in Japan. For example, drive thrus! And In-n-Out. Costco $1.50 hot dogs. And ranch!!! I missed ranch so much. It’s my favorite sauce. In all seriousness though, I really do appreciate everything I have now.

ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad?

Share what courses you chose to take abroad and the strategies you used to ensure your academic success. How has the experience impacted your academics now that you have returned to SJSU?

I took four courses: Leadership, Creativity, and Organizational Renewal; Japanese Society, Social Media and Business; Business Communication and Productivity. First and foremost, I made friends in class. Having friends can help hold you accountable and incentivize you to come to class. Moreover, being familiar with classmates can make group projects much more smooth and enjoyable.

I also made sure I was recognizable to professors. I participated, asked questions, talked to them after class, and built a relationship with them. Establishing a connection with professors is imperative to academic success. It’s easier to ask for help when you’re familiar with your teachers.

Now that I’m back at SJSU, I still strive to be present and engaged in class for my peers and professors.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How has your immersion impacted your perspectives on the world?

Studying abroad helped me discover a happiness I’ve never known before. Despite this experience being for me, I didn’t feel like the main character—and that’s a good thing! It felt so freeing to decentralize myself; it made my worries feel much smaller. I was more intent on learning about other people and other cultures; learning more about myself was just a byproduct of the process. Every individual I met is so unique and has a story that has impacted me. I am a mosaic of everyone I met; I carry little pieces of them with me.

Since coming back, I still keep that open mind and eagerness to learn about others. It’s amazing how much you can absorb when you listen more and talk less. Going abroad has humbled me and reminded me that I’m a student of life above all else. The vast world has so much to offer, and there’s always opportunities to learn and grow if you’re willing to look and listen.

FUTURE: How has study abroad prepared you for your future?

I’ve always been in a rush to grow up and reach the next milestone, but being abroad has taught me to really slow down and smell the roses. Not having a car in Japan meant I had to walk most places, and although I didn’t like it at first, I grew to enjoy it. Walking allowed me to take the whole world in, soak up the sun’s warmth, and appreciate the journey.

I also grew more conscious about financials, and financial literacy is such an important skill for adulthood. Being abroad made me aware about currency exchange rates, my spending/saving habits, how much I’m willing to pay for experiences versus material items, and more.

TIPS: What advice would you give to a future Global Spartan?

Take a leap of faith. If you are on the fence, just go for it. You have a community of people who will support you and welcome you with open arms, whether that’s Study Abroad Alumni, SJSU faculty, host university faculty, host families, the local community, other students, etc. You are never alone in your endeavors, and you have so many resources available to you! Put in the work, and your efforts will come to fruition. I hope you study abroad; it’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Matthew Heitmann

Matthew HeitmannNAME: Matthew Heitmann
MAJOR: History
PROGRAM: Germany – CSUIP – University of Tübingen
TERM: Fall 2022 & Spring 2023
BIO: Please tell us about you and why you chose to study abroad.(REQUIRED)

My name is Matt, and I was born and raised in San José. My parents are both children of European immigrants from Italy & Germany. Growing up, I was raised around these influences and would consider myself culturally Italian-American with my Mom’s parents a major influence on me and their family as a whole – which exposed me to another world outside of English-speaking America from an early age. This ultimately led to my interests in history, culture and languages, choosing to pursue a major in History and minor in German linguistics -perhaps contrary to the culturally dominant Italian part of me. Nonetheless I chose to pursue my passion and do a study year in Germany after completing basic introductory German courses at West Valley and currently am in my second semester here at the University of Tuebingen having progressed tremendously with the German language since I first arrived last July. It is my passion and desire to dedicate my life to academics and become a Professor of History & Languages in the future. My dream is to be at least trilingual, mastering German and Italian in addition to my native English. I felt that I would never truly realize this ambition unless I undertook a study year in Europe which although has been difficult, stressful and at first quite lonely, has become a wonderful multi-cultural experience and the perfect opportunity to hone my second language.

CAREER: What skills did you learn/sharpen during your study abroad experience?(REQUIRED)
Reflect on how your study abroad experience and the skills, knowledge, or networking has enhanced or contributed to your life back on campus or home.

I haven’t returned back home yet, so it’s hard to say exactly how it will look back in California. But I think that I have learned how to work with so many different people, from all over the world and different walks of life. I have created an expansive network of people here in Europe who I know I will always have contact with no matter where I am.

GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad?(REQUIRED)
Reflect on the personal, academic, and professional goals that you had set out to achieve on your study abroad experience?

My goals when choosing to study abroad were threefold:

1. First and foremost, German fluency: As aforementioned, a major goal of mine is to become trilingual, fluent in the languages of my familial culture to complement my English. I believe that becoming at least bilingual is a very important stepping stone in this world, as it unlocks another world in and of itself, gives you another cultural perspective on your world, and most importantly provides so many career opportunities that I would otherwise be limited to with just English.

2. Developing a base in Europe: With the political situation across America growing increasingly more concerning and polarizing for me as a gay man and the increasing unaffordability of my beloved California, I have for the last several years considered my options for living and working in Europe. Before I started my program in Germany, I received my German and European Union Citizenship and Passport. This was important for me, as Europe would now permanently be open to me no matter the path I choose nor what comes of our country. I have worked on meeting as many people here as possible, befriending many of them, as well as exploring institutions such as the German-American Institute(D.A.I.) to better establish myself for future contacts and work here, should I pursue it.

3. Most importantly in the short-term however, is of course my degree. I had already completed my History degree requirements save for 1 or 2 courses prior to departing for Germany. But what was challenging to complete at SJSU unfortunately was my German minor. Here in Germany, I have managed to take all of my academically-required courses for the German minor and extra. I have pushed myself over and over at every opportunity I get here to take as many German language classes as possible. Stressful? Yes! Worth it? Absolutely!

PERSONAL GROWTH: What was the biggest impact that your study abroad experience had on you?(REQUIRED)

Multiculturalism: This is a big one for me. The monolinguistic nature of the U.S. with such a dominant language like English as its mother tongue I feel really limits us in getting to know and understand other cultures, societies, and leaves us blind to many negative aspects of our own society. Growing up ethnic, that is to say, with parents or grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins who were not born nor raised in the United States, is a tremendous advantage I believe in becoming multiculturally-aware and being able to establish and grow connections with non-Americans. From a young age, I often felt different compared to many of the other kids whose families were entirely born and raised American. I took great pride in my roots, and the struggle that my grandparents went through to make it in America. This would lead to my passion for culture, history, and languages. I have managed to make wonderful friends here from so many different backgrounds. Tuebingen is an extremely international campus, attracting people from all over the world. Getting to know so many wonderful cultures, their traditions, celebrations, holidays, and cuisine has been such an extraordinary opportunity to expand my horizons and learn so much more about our world. California is one of the unique places to grow up in America wherein you are already exposed to multiculturalism from a young age and therefore I think this is why I value it so greatly, seeing it as a given since preschool.

ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad?
Share what courses you chose to take abroad and the strategies you used to ensure your academic success. How has the experience impacted your academics now that you have returned to SJSU?

I took a heavy course load of German language, culture, communication and reading classes. In August, I had a special 6 week course program with German language school from 8am-3pm while living with a German host family. In the fall semester, I took 4 German language classes, 1 German reading class, 1 German culture class, 1 intercultural communications class, and now will be taking 5 German language and writing courses. All of which were to obtain my German minor.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How has your immersion impacted your perspectives on the world?

Absolutely. This is a natural byproduct of any study abroad program. You are exposed to a different view of the world, which may also include many similarities. You are also subjected to a whole new way of viewing America. Before I came to Europe, even though I considered myself already a very multi-cultural and global person, I definitely had some red, white and blue sunglasses on. That is to say, I had certain judgments and reservations about countries, their political systems, their economics, societies as a whole that were quite wrong. This is something I feel is very important to be self-aware of, and reflect on throughout any study abroad experience, even if you feel like you’re well educated on the country you’re living in. In my case, I have always been a big fan of Germany and seen them as a beacon of European democracy and stability. Yet despite this, I still judged many aspects of German society incorrectly.

 FUTURE: How has study abroad prepared you for your future?(REQUIRED)

I truly believe that when I return to America this summer, that I will have an extremely different view on our society and the structure of our university, for both better and for worse. For instance, I believe I will naturally gravitate towards and connect with international students, and professors who have gone through a similar experience as me – such as Professor Katsev of my History department, who I have developed a strong relationship with as she also studied in Europe during her youth. I think that should I decide to pursue grad school in Europe, or do another study semester that I will be even more prepared the second time around and much more comfortable with myself. This is the kind of experience that is imprinted upon a person for a lifetime. I will always draw upon my international experience in my future education, career and personal life.

TIPS: What advice would you give to a future Global Spartan?(REQUIRED)

I think the foremost matter of importance is just pushing yourself to apply for it and commit. I remember the incredible anxiety and worry I had when I was even just considering applying for studying abroad back in January of 2022. Dreams will always stay dreams unless you pursue them, which is why I think this is important advice to always have in the back of your mind.

Once you’ve begun your program, this is some advice which I have received or reflected on and think can be tremendously beneficial to a successful experience:
1. Say yes to every opportunity: Even if it doesn’t work out, even if you don’t end up enjoying it, you still did it. You still took the step, and you learned more about yourself.

2. Put yourself out there: Try to join as many social groups as you possibly can at the beginning. When I first moved into my university’s dorms I joined facebook, instagram, and whatsapp groups to meet as many people as possible. I attended pub crawls, dinner nights, hang outs, in order to meet as many people as I could. Did I end up befriending most of them? No. But I found my people who I clicked best with, I found my friends, and I built my social circle and friend groups with them. They were in the same boat as me just trying to meet other people and so there really isn’t much pressure on you. It’s all in your head!

​​​​​​​3. Take a break when you need to, it’s normal: I have found myself extremely burnt out from too much social activity, and the activities that go with it such as clubbing and drinking. These are a core part of the social experience at any university, which is why I think it’s important to address it in spite of our traditional anti-Alcohol view at American universities. It’s going to be there. You’re going to drink it. That’s just the reality of it. In my first semester I went to a lot of parties and I did a lot of clubbing and drinking with friends. By January, I was completely sick of it and burnt out.

Viridiana Galvez Garcia

Viridiana Galvez Garcia

Major: Business Accounting
Term Abroad: Winter 2023
Year: Junior
Program / Location: Barcelona, Spain: FLP – A Taste of Spain

Why did you want to study abroad? 

I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone . I love learning about different cultures and exposing myself to new experiences.

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

My most positive experience abroad includes meeting amazing students in my program and getting to know more about local people and their traditions.

How did you manage your academic success abroad during the pandemic?

I scheduled certain times during the day to focus only on my school responsibilities, making sure I was completing all my assignments.

What are some ways that you interacted with the local community?

I am a very curious person. I tried to ask as many questions as possible whenever we were taking a tour.

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while abroad?

I would say making sure to always having a face mask around, also washing your hands as often as possible and making sure you follow the host county guidelines.

Any advice to potential study abroad students?

Always listen to the professor and the study abroad and away staff advice. Follow their instructions and make the best out of this unforgettable experience.

Mariana Rojas-Montoya

Mariana Rojas-Montoya
Major: Physics
Term Abroad: Winter 2023
Program / Location: Spain FLP

Why did you want to study abroad? 
I wanted to explore something completely different from my major, and it was a good reset for myself before starting a new semester. When I first started college, I didn’t think that studying abroad was even in the cards for me since my major did not require a study abroad experience. When I found out that there were programs that covered a student’s area V, I got excited. It was an impulsive decision since I applied right after I read about it, but such spontaneity led to academic growth. On top of that, I’ve been wanting to practice my Spanish more, so a program for Spain was my immediate first choice.

What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?
The thing that I enjoyed the most was how much time I was able to spend with my classmates. My favorite moments include touring historical spots, cooking together, shoe making, learning about the production of certain foods, and being introduced to new dishes during our group meals. I especially cherished the activities that my classmates and I did during our free time. It was during those moments that we were able to bond through laughter, curiosity, sharing stories from our own lives, and expressing our gratitude for having this experience abroad together. I am incredibly lucky to have traveled with this cohort. They really did make the program even more worthwhile.

How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic?
I was able to manage my academic success abroad by being mindful of my assignments and their due dates. I also view my experience in the program as a form of management for my overall academic success in San Jose State. I wanted time to think about how I’ve been feeling with my studies back at home, and the trip provided me the chance to disconnect from anything related to my major, which felt refreshing. Regardless of what major a student has, it is always healthy to just step back from it for a little while and rest. By being in a setting that allowed me to learn and unwind at the same time, I was able to make choices upon returning home that will help me achieve my academic goals.

What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community ?
A memorable interaction that I had was with a store owner who ran a stationery store in Barcelona. My roommate and I were looking for a gift while exploring small alleyways during our free time, which is how we ended up in the store. I started chatting with the store owner, and that is when she told me that the notebooks were special since they were all handmade in house. She shared a story about her upbringing and how she developed her interest in making notebooks. I then learned about how people in that town would have a vision of things that they like, so they would open a small business to share it with the public. It felt special hearing these stories through her, and she even told me about other antique stores that she recommended I visit during my trip. Barcelona is filled with nooks and crannies of people’s art, and making those discoveries is the best part of interacting with the locals.

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while abroad?
Coordinate with your classmates regarding communication. Always let them know where you or someone is going, which is crucial if anything were to happen. Always observe your surroundings, keep your purses/bags in front of you to protect your belongings, and stay in areas where there are plenty of people and enough lighting. As for health, do bring masks, sanitizing wipes, and medication.

Any advice to potential study abroad students?

  • Research the weather for all of the programs offered. This might be a no-brainer for those who travel a lot, but it could be something that doesn’t cross someone’s mind if they don’t travel much or at all.
  • Even if your major does not require a study abroad experience, Spartans Abroad does offer programs that can cover an upper division general education area such as area V. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the office and/or professors with questions about those details, I really encourage speaking with them if you have any doubts about anything!
  • If you are considering doing a program, then go for it! As mentioned before, sometimes you just need to step back from your current major studies and take time to explore new things. It is beneficial since you are able to realize/reflect on what is truly making you happy in life. Just go out and live!

Gilman Award: Rahel Adebabay

Rahel Adebabay

Congratulations to Rahel Adebabay, a Junior majoring in Global Studies and minoring in African American Studies, Legal Studies, and Philosophy who was one of two SJSU recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in the spring 2023 semester. Rahel will be studying at University College Dublin in the spring. Rahel is a Peer Mentor at Peer Connections and a Research Assistant at the African American Studies department. In her personal statement (see below), Rahel, who is proudly of Ethiopian heritage, wrote that she is “eager to embark on a new academic journey and determined to excel while utilizing my leadership abilities to contribute to the campus culture.”

Rahel’s Statement of Purpose

Participating in a study abroad program would profoundly benefit my experience as a Global Studies major. My interest in foreign relations stems from the desire to serve underrepresented groups, travel, and engage with different cultures. I want to utilize my degree to work towards my vision of building a prosperous, united Africa with access to basic needs, economic sustainability, and solid educational infrastructure. As I pursue such domains, the University College Dublin would be the perfect environment to develop the skills necessary to thrive in International Affairs. Not only will I engage in a curriculum directly related to my field, but like-minded individuals will also surround me. San Jose State University is traditionally a STEM-based school, and the student population majoring in International Affairs is slim. Seeing as though the University College Dublin is highly selective and recognized for its programs, I expect my experience to challenge me, academically and personally, as I know this will ultimately make me a well-rounded student and person. Through this program, I hope to gain a new perspective in which to view the world.

Although I consider myself open-minded, I believe traveling to Dublin, Ireland, and experiencing a non-American curriculum will allow me to decenter from an American political perspective. This is especially important as a scholar in the field of International relations because this will challenge my political beliefs, worldviews, and personal values. International Affairs cannot be seen from only one perspective, and acquiring added perspective will make me more analytical and critical in nature. Such attributes will make me an attractive candidate for my future educational pursuits and professional life. Through this experience, I desire to garner skills to become an effective communicator as I am cognizant of the number of people I will meet from various backgrounds with possible language and cultural barriers. Through this experience, I want to learn how to navigate those barriers in communication. This is especially important to me as I hope to work in the peace and war conflict sector, and through this experience, I can drastically improve my communication abilities.

 I believe studying abroad is more than just about academics. It includes studying rich cultures and engaging in diverse communities. I plan to use this cultural understanding to best inform me beyond this academic semester and my day-to-day life. I believe that I am a creative, open-minded student with excellent collaboration skills and a deep-rooted commitment to improving my community. At the University College Dublin, I am eager to embark on a new academic journey and determined to excel while utilizing my leadership abilities to contribute to the campus culture. These qualities prove I would be a great candidate for the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship program.

Apply For the Gilman Scholarship Now

Celeste Sandoval-Chavez

Celeste Sandoval-Chavez

Celeste Sandoval-ChavezCeleste Sandoval-Chavez
Major: Human Factors and Ergonomics
Term Abroad: Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
Program / Location: ISEP: Bradford University, England

Why did you want to study abroad? 
I knew since I started college I wanted to study abroad, and it wasn’t until I actually researched and applied to do it. I knew I wanted to experience a new culture, country, and uni experience and studying abroad was something that was able to do that for me.

What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?
My most positive experience from studying abroad is being able to make new friends, become a local of Bradford City, and become independent by experiencing living alone for the first time ( I am an SJSU commuter and still live with my parents). I loved my experience so much studying abroad in England that I have been planning to find a way to work and settle permanently in England! I definitely left a part of me in England that yearns to go back! 🇬🇧 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 I’ll be a long journey to get there but I know it’ll be worth it because I am determined to go back ❤️

How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic?
Balancing my social and academic life was something that worked for me. My friends were both on the same course as I and therefore would always hangout at each other’s flats but also organize study groups and prepare for lectures and exams.

What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community ?
Making friends who aren’t international students is was how I was better to learn first had how British culture is. They became my friend group and taught me the ins and outs of what it is like living in England.

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic?
Please make sure you have school insurance and or global insurance. Take precautions like washing your hands, covering your mouth when sneezing (do not use your hand). Seek medical attention if you are in serious pain.

Any advice to potential study abroad students?
1. Make friends who are from the country you are studying in so you indulge in the culture more authentically.

2. Even if you aren’t able to make friends that is OKAY, being able to travel solo in the country that you are in is also really nice and you have more flexibility to visit the places you want to go to.

3. Be involved in the uni activities and clubs!! that is also another great way to meet knew people, start a new hobby, and be informed of trips or activities planned

4. GO SIGHTSEEING!! As much as possible and take those photos for memories!!

Alexey Kolechkin

Alexey Kolechkin

Alexey Kolechkin
Major: Finance
Term Abroad: Fall 2022 and Spring 2023
Program / Location: SJSU Exchange Sophia University, Tokyo Japan
IG: @alexey.kolechkin

Why did you want to study abroad? 
I’ve been interested in Japanese culture ever since taking Japanese language classes in high school, so I wanted to experience living in Japan firsthand, improve my language abilities, and meet lots of new people.

What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?
Realizing how much money I’ve been spending, which is ironic considering that living in Japan is fairly cheap right now since the dollar is so strong compared to the yen. But since I go out a lot, whether it’s exploring/traveling or shopping or just hanging out with friends, I end up spending a lot of money on experiences. It’s not something I regret, since thankfully I have enough savings to cover it and I’m making lots of great memories, but it is something I will have to keep in check later on.

Any advice to potential study abroad students?
Seek growth and learning through discomfort. Living abroad for an extended period of time can be scary and challenging, but it’s one of the best opportunities for growth and self-development that you will ever have in your life, so take advantage of it and go somewhere exciting!

How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic?
I minimized the amount of classes I’m taking so that I could put more focus on each one while dealing with the challenges of studying abroad. There is almost always something new that pops up that I have to deal with, or exciting experiences or events that I want to participate in, so I realized I had to take a lighter course load to have time for everything and still be able to succeed academically, as well as succeed in my other goals.

What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community ?
I’ve made friends with several Japanese students and they’ve shown me around different parts of Tokyo and taken me to places like restaurants, bars, karaoke, observatories, shrines, and temples. Having local connections really helps to better integrate with the local community because they show me how to act, speak, and what is considered acceptable and not acceptable.

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic?
Take the normal precautions as you would anywhere else; wear a mask, wash your hands, try to avoid crowds if you can, and make smart choices

Kianna Vargas

Kianna Vargas

Kianna VargasKianna 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!