NAME: Yesenia Guzman
MAJOR: Business Marketing
PROGRAM: France – SJSU Exchange – University of Strasbourg Business School
My name is Yesenia Guzman (she/her). I was born and raised in San Francisco, California and moved to San Jose when I began my undergrad journey at SJSU. I recently graduated in Decemeber 2022 as a Business Marketing major with a Chicana/o Studies minor. I am a first generation, Mexican American and college graduate. My family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the 70’s, and settled in the Mission District of San Francisco. My first language was Spanish, and was fortunate enough to take bilingual classes during my first years of elementary school. I grew up closely to my culture and community in Jalisco, Mexico, which allowed me to explore many different cities and states in Mexico. This further strengthened my navigational skills and inspired my interest in global traveling!
One of my greatest goals when thinking about college was to study abroad. I didn’t know when or how I would go abroad, but I knew I would find out. As a first generation collge student, the opportunity to study abroad seemed almost unreachable – personally, financially, and academically. I didn’t limit myself, though, and continued to explore my study abroad options. I attended information sessions, met with advisors (academic and from SAA), considered various programs for my major degree requirements, and finally – after a three year contemplation and pandemic – I fiinalized my decision for the Spring 2022 semester. I knew this experience would grealty enhance my overall personal, academic, and professional life. I was intentional about chosing a program in a city and country that was outside of my comfort zone, but I had a special connection to – France. I also wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to learn in a different country, culture, and language. I chose to study abroad because I knewo this experience would not only support my own personal and academic growth, but it would also open up the doors of possibilities for myself and my family. Studying abroaf was defintely one of the best choices I made during my undergraduate journey.
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.
Some of the skills I learned/sharpened during my study abroad experience were…
- Navigational skills – using various modes of transportation – bus, train, metro, and plane! I grew up traveling on public transportation (MUNI in San Francisco), which helped me feel comfortable and confident in navigating various cities on public transportation in not only my host city, but also various other major cities in Europe (which was ideal). This helped me feel more confident in traveling and asking for help visiting new places, back home.
- Time management : One of the greatest skills I strengthened when abroad was my time management skills. I had to adjust my morning routine to ensure I accounted for the time it took me to commute and arrive to school every morning. I never had to commute to class in college because I always lived a walking distance away. When I was abroad, I had to account for a 20-30 minute commute in the mornings. At first, it was making sure I made it to the tram stop in time to make it to my 8 am class. Then, it was making sure I arrived to the bus stop on time to make it to my 8 am class. I was almost 20-40 minutes late to class for the first month of the semester. It was a challenge to adjust. I then decided to rent a bike and THIS made a hige difference. After learning from my experienced with the tram and bus, I succesfully adjusted my time to leave my house with enough time to bike to school, park my bike, and make it to class 5 minutes before session. This was a skill I defintinitely appreciate developing abroad. This really helped me manage my time better and always mentally prepare to arrive to events/classes/responsibilites with atleast 20-30 minutes in advance.
- Networking and collaborating with students from various part of the world! – My program offered courses for all exchange students to take and learn in together. This meant that I was taking classes with other exchange students who were also studying abroad, from diverse countries and cultures. I met students from Finland, Spain, Mexico, Peru, Germany, France, India, and was able to learn, work, and socialize with them in and outside of school. I learned so much about their cultures, lifestyles, and native languages. Now that I am back home, I feel like I have friends across the world that I continue to learn from and connect with (virtually, through social media). This is truly fascinating to me. It has enhanced my life in a unqiue way. I now feel more inclined to learn about exchange students at SJSU! I felt personally welcomed by many French students at my host university, and realized the importance of connecting with students who are visiting San Jose/California/USA for the first time. It can make a positive difference in offering support on how to navigate the school and city.
- French language: My daily life activities required me to strengthen my overall French language knowledge. I made an effort to speak in French for any experience – buying groceries, ordering at restaurants, shoping at malls – to help me improve. This has helped me in communicating with French speaking people in the States! Although I am still at a beginner level, I am better able to recognize and understand French words, which therefore has allowed me to connect with others uniquely. When working at my part-time coffeeshop, which I encounter many French tourists and am able to hold a short and sweet conversation with them. This leads me to sharing about my experience in France, while also learning about their own life in France.
- My Cultural Knowledge and Awareness: I did not know much about Europe before studying abroad. Everything was a new experience for me. When abroad, I traveled to 10 different countries. I experienced various cities, communities, cultures, and gastronomies. My cultural awareness grew so much. I made so many historical connections and finally visited many of the monunents and landmarks that I learned about in school ( i.e the Eiffel Tower, the leaning tower of Pisa, Big Ben). I am now able to share these experiences with my family, peers, and colleagues and understand references made about different European countriesa and cities.
Reflect on the personal, academic, and professional goals that you had set out to achieve on your study abroad experience?
My goals for studying abroad were –
- As a Business Major attending a Business School in France, I was excited to learn from, and collaborate with, Business students from other countries. My goal was to create informative and detailed Business presentations with my teams, that represented each of our ideas, cultural knowledge, and own personal insight.
- One of my main academic goals was to be intentional about my presence in class – take detailed notes, be proactive with my assignments and projects, ask questions in class, and connect with as many peers as I could in each class. Essentially, succeed as a student.
- Beyond my academic goal of passing all of my classes with high scores, I set the goal of meaningfully engaging with the content I was learning by researching additional information about the readings and making connections between the lessons being taught about in Europe to the ones in the USA.
- One of my greatest goals was to dedicate an adequate amount of time on research and group projects to ensure I presented my best work at my host university, and even be able to share it back in my home university.
- Truly immerse myself in the life, culture, and community abroad – I aimed to truly explore the city I was in, engage in community events and activities (i.e farmers markets and biking), speak as much French as I could (significant effort), and try as many local restaurants I was interested in.
- I aimed to slow down and truly cherish the experience of studying abroad. Growing up in major urban cities like San Francisco and San Jose, I am used to the rapid and busy lifestyle of moving from one place to the other, thinking about multiple things at once, and living/planning a lot in the future. When I was abroad, I aimed to shift into a more calm mindset and lifestyle – take more time for rest, leisure, social hangouts, and travel! I saw how people sat near the river and spent their time eating, reading, listening to music, or talking with a friend. I soon started to do the same.
- Grow mentally: Develop healthier ways of thinking, living life, approaching situations according to what I was seeing in my host city.
- Reflect: Reflect on daily experiences and lessons from life with friends, in school, and when traveling.
- Travel: Expand my horizons and meaningfully experience various European countries, cultures, and communities.
- Create meaningful friendships and memories with new people I was going to meet abroad – Meet new people, genuinely get to know their story, share my own story with others, and create meaningful memories with others abroad!
It is very difficult to chose one single impact out of the many that this experience had on me, yet if I had to identify one as the biggest, it would be the significance of travel experiences with friends. I was fortunate enough to travel to various cities during my time abroad, and live each journey with different groups of people. The traveling not only expanded my mindset and horizons, but it also made me realize the importance of sharing these travel experiences with others. It taught me something new about the friend I was traveling with and strengthened many of the frienships I had. I learned how different people travel in different ways, and how important it is to plan, communicate, and make it EARLY to your train station. I learned SO much from each journey, specifically and especially to enjoy the simple act of sightseeing, packing light, and chosing the important things to pack.
I now have these stories to remember with each of these friends, as well as share with future ones.
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 7 different courses abroad:
- Retail Marketing and Logistics
- Strategic Brand Management
- Luxury Brands Management
- Storytelling & Time Management
- Introduction to French Language II
- International Consumer Behavior
- (One asynchronous SJSU course): CCS160: Gender and Sexuality)
I made sure to schedule all of my courses and important deadlines on my Google Calendar. One of my strongest strategies is to sit at the front of the class and take detailed notes. I also work on the homework assigned for the class right after the lecture, or that same day – when it is recent in my memory. Reviewing my notes and saving class presentations really helped in ensuring my full comprehension of the weekly lectures.
When I came back to SJSU, I had to readjust to classes being twice per week, 1.5 hours becasue my courses abroad were once per week, for 3-4 hours.I also had to readjust to working on homework more frequently, becasue it was rare to receive homework abroad. Studying abroad definitely strengthened my time management skills and helped me prioritize my assignments/projects.
Although this was mentally understood, I was further affirmed about the power and magic of cultural diversity. Living in Europe made me realize that everyone is living in completely different realities, depending on you region, environment, and time zone. My life in Europe was so unique and so different than my life in the states. I was riding my bike everywhere abroad, experiencing life outdoors more, being more eco-conscious and friendly, traveling ebery weekend, as well as cherishing leisure time more in Europe. Life was different everyday. In the states, life is different, more routine-like, more indoors, and busier.
I also realized how much Europe works around the seasons – not everything is available all year round. For example, I was trying to order iced coffee in February but no coffee shop offered it because they had no ice and it was Winter, which meant iced coffee was only available in the Summer. Restaurants also change their menu items every season.
After studying abroad, I am not interested and ready to travel the rest of the world. I am now a wiser and more conscious traveler and visitor. I am more mindful of the pre-departure process – looking into Visas, preparing important documents, accomodations, foreign exchange/payment methods, essential equipment and cultural awarenes.
I am prepared to communicate with people from diverse cultures, outside of the US. I am prepared to bike more frequently, recycle and repurpose my glassware, and plan out travel inquiries on a budget! I am prepared to invite my family to future travel experiences and lead/coordiante a group abroad! I feel more comfortable and confident with taking various methods of public transportation.
Most importantly, I am now prepared to share my own experience with future study abroad student and support them with in their own study abroad journey! I am now prepared to inspire and inform students about study abroad opportunities in college and how to approach them, apply to them, and prepare for their own.
Some of the most important tips I would offer a future Global Spartan are:
I. Before applying to a program:
- Attend a SA&A information session
- Seek a peer or staff mentor, who have experience studying abroad, when chosing a program! This can offer a sense of direction and understanding when it comes to the process of navigating the SAA portal, meeting with advisors, and chosing a program
- Choose a program/country that is new and outside of your comfort zone – this is an opportunity to expand your horizons!
II. After applying to a program:
- Contact a previous Global Spartan that attended your host university or country: This will also offer valuable insight on how to best prepare for your unique program!
- Create a timeline and plan in advance! : Consistently check on updates and ensure to note down importance deadlines for your study abroad program – Application deadlines, Visa requirements, Passport updates, Travel dates, + all other important documentations for pre-departure
- Ask your SA&A advisor questions: Stay connected to your SA&A advisor and do not hesitate to ask them your pending questions/curiosities.
- Meet with an Academic Advisor: Your academic advisor is a part of your dream team. Make sure to meet with an academic advisor who will be guiding and supporting your course equivalencies & approvals for your host university!
- Watch Youtube Videos on your host university/city & country – If this is your first time traveling to this city/country – watch youtube videos of other people who have studied abroad there and can offer specific tips on what to pack and prepare for before going abroad!
- Check in with your bank – Ask for foreign currency and check in with your credit/debit cards – make sure you can use it abroad with no international fees!
- Calls and WiFi: Purchase a sim card abroad and make sure to check in with your current network/service provider; let them know you are going to study and live abroad!
- Definitely pack light and pack comfortable walking shoes – you will be walking a lot
- Take a journal – reflect on your experiences abroad – what realizations are you having? write out the emotions you are experiencing, the course content you are learning, the people you are meeting, and the meaningful moments you are having,
- Travel! Depending on your region, attempt to travel and get to know cities outside of your host city.
- Take many pictures and videos! These memories will last a lifetime <3