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.

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.

Janet Garcia Borbon

Janet Garcia Borbon


Congratulations to Janet Garcia Borbon who graduated in December with more than just a degree in kinesiology.  She is a first-generation college graduate, a DACA recipient, the #1 ranked Muay Thai fighter in the United States, and a study abroad alumnae of the business-focused faculty-led program in Germany in summer 2022. Prior to leaving for Germany for her study abroad experience, Janet represented the United States at the World Games in Alabama earning a bronze medal.

What’s your story?

Hi, my name is Janet Garcia Borbon. As a first-generation graduate and DACA recipient, I am proud to have achieved so much in my life. I am proud to have achieved so much in my life. Born in Mexico, I have called San Jose, California my home since I was nine years old. In addition to my academic pursuits, I am also a skilled Muay Thai fighter and currently hold the #1 rank in the 48 kg weight class in the USA. Recently, I had the privilege of representing the USA at the World Games and brought home a bronze medal. I am grateful for all of the opportunities that have come my way and am excited to see what the future holds.

Why did you want to study abroad? 

I have always been fascinated by the idea of studying abroad and experiencing life in a different part of the world. Growing up, I never had the opportunity to travel outside of my home continent and this seemed like the perfect chance for me to step out of my comfort zone and explore a new culture. I am eager to see how people in other parts of the world live and experience life, and I believe that studying abroad will be a valuable and enriching opportunity for me.

What was your experience abroad in Germany?

My experience in Germany has been wonderful. I have had the opportunity to learn about a new culture and meet a diverse group of people. I have gained valuable insights into how business is conducted in Germany and how people view the world. I have also had the chance to try new and delicious foods and engage in meaningful conversations with locals. While the Germans may not be as outwardly friendly as Americans, they are extremely helpful and willing to assist whenever needed. Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Germany and would love the chance to return in the future.

What is The World Games? 

The World Games are an international multi-sport event comprising sports and sporting disciplines that are not contested in the Olympic Games. They are usually held every four years, one year after a Summer Olympic Games, over the course of 11 days.

About 3,600 elite athletes from over 100 countries compete for gold in more than 30 of the fastest growing sports in the world. The first ever World Games took place in 1981 in Santa Clara, CA.

Tell us about your journey and experience at The World Games?  

My journey to the World Games began five years ago when I learned that my sport, Muay Thai, would be included in the games. I made the decision then and there that I would do whatever it took to represent the United States in the World Games. It was fortuitous that the next World Games would be held in Birmingham, Alabama. I spoke with my coach and told him that I wanted to be the best in the country. We worked hard for the next five years, competing against fighters from all over the country and climbing the ranks. Eventually, I won the USA qualifiers, securing my spot on the team and my #1 rank in the USA.

When I arrived at the Games, it was like a dream come true. I had worked so hard for this moment and it was finally here. I took in every moment, making sure to be present and savor the experience. The highlight of the tournament for me was when they called out “Representing the United States of America” and my name. That was when it all hit me: an immigrant child representing the USA. I never thought I would get the opportunity to hear those words and I was overwhelmed with joy. I wanted to cry, smile, and hug my mom to tell her that we had done it. But I had to put on a good poker face and get to work. As I entered the ring, I put all my feelings aside and fought with all my heart. After winning my first match, the crowd started cheering again, “USA! USA!” and all those emotions came rushing back. I hugged my coach and tears rolled down my cheeks.

Although I didn’t win the gold, earning a bronze medal was still a huge accomplishment for me. It was one of the best times of my life and I will always hold that moment dear to my heart.

What does it mean for you as a Spartan to be selected to represent the US in The World Games?

This experience has shown me that anything is possible if I set my mind to it. Being both a student and a top athlete can be challenging, but I have had great professors and counselors who have helped me along the way. Whenever I needed help from my teachers, they were always willing to provide it. They recognized the demands of my athletic career and did their best to help me balance my schoolwork. This has taught me that with determination and support, I can achieve anything.”

Any advice to Spartans?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are many resources available to make your college experience easier. I wish I had known this when I first started college, but now you do. Talk to your professors or counselors for guidance and they will point you in the right direction. Remember, you don’t have to go through this journey alone.

NOTE from the Study Abroad & Away office:

If you wish to support future DACA students to take advantage of our global experiences at SJSU, please consider donating to the Dr. Ruth Huard Study Abroad Scholarship which aims to help fund DACA students with their Advance Parole process.