Valentina Millenia Ramsay

NAME: Valentina Ramsay
MAJOR: Advertising
PROGRAM: Spain – SJSU Exchange – Toulouse Business School – Barcelona Campus
Email: valentina.ramsay@sjsu.edu
BIO: Please tell us about you and why you chose to study abroad.

I chose to study abroad because it has always been a dream of mine to live in another country, especially during my younger years-an opportunity not many get. I also have traveled many times before so I felt comfortable going alone- and was very excited to.

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 opened my mind to new cultures in many different ways. I learned cooking, dancing, and even just a difference in communicating, with many different cultures. I also learned many customs of different cultures, which have broadened my perspective on what I knew my previous world to be.

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?

Personal: Become more independent and open my mind to new things- see what I prefer and don’t prefer as much. Academic: Be able to experience learning in a new environment to see if I learned better or not as well as in the States. Professional: Learn more about different manners, expectations, and worth ethics of people around the world. Also network. I achieved all of them!

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

I formed many meaningful friendships- some even deeper within the short amount of time I had formed them in comparison to some relationships I’ve had in the States. I learned that most European and some Latin American people seem to show lots of genuine care and appreciation to everyone, even if they had just met you. Conversations are deeper, they are more heartfelt and meaningful.

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 courses on Marketing and Ethics. A lot of assignments were group-project based, so I did my best to do my part while also making sure that the group- most of them with English as a second language- were on the same page. I must admit though: going to a school with primarily French-speaking students- there was a  lot of pressure I put on myself to not look like the “dumb American”. Blunt, but that was my experience as one of the two Americans in the entire school. At the end of the day, I am so proud of myself for never letting that pressure stop me from being the charismatic person I am and making so many friends-even with the initially reserved French students (One who I soon ended up dating actually). Although the different teaching styles made it hard at times- I had to keep an open mind and persevere. Returning home, I have used some new skills and perspectives I had collected abroad to do things differently than before.

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

My immersion has completely changed the view I have of the world and even my day-today life. All of a sudden I can bring a second perspective into the picture for almost every single situation in my life, as I have experienced the world in a completely different way than I was used to before. It has made me become an even more accepting and simultaneously curious person.

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

Study abroad has prepared me for my future by teaching me to be open and accepting of new things, even some which may push me out of my comfort zone, and most importantly; made me more independent and fearless.

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

Be open to anything. Meet new people. Eat funny things. Try to learn the language but even if you struggle – don’t be afraid to talk to those around you. Step out of your comfort zone. You traveled to this country knowing nobody- so don’t be afraid to go on solo dates with yourself when you haven’t made friends yet- even just as simple as a walk around your new neighborhood. You’re still young- go out more during the day and or night. Once you do this you will find even more to do, and establish even more connections. You will realize how quickly a 24-hour day passes, and some days there’s so much to do- it’s almost hard to choose. Give yourself mental rest when needed, of course, but don’t allow yourself to come back wishing you could’ve done more.

 

Michelle Duong

NAME: Michelle Duong
MAJOR: Computer Science
PROGRAM: SJSU Exchange – Sungkyunkwan University – South Korea
EMAIL: michelleduong@yahoo.com

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

A bit about myself is that I have always been interested in languages and different cultures due to my multicultural family. I chose to study abroad because I have always been interested in the program, and my current college plans lined up to give me the perfect opportunity to apply.

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

Academically, studying abroad gave me a glimpse of how Korean universities operate, and how students learn. Apart from academics, I met people from all around the world, enhancing my knowledge of different cultures and how their mindsets may differ. Traveling abroad taught me how to be a safe traveler, as well as develop the skills to be more independent and adaptive.

 GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad? 

My goals were simple, to learn to be more independent and to put myself out there. I would say that I was pretty successful as I met many people, and learned to spend my time alone more productively. Being a commuter, I miss out on a lot of college life experiences, and I felt that study abroad brought that part to me.

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

The biggest impact study abroad had on me was learning to be independent and be okay with being independent. Everyone has their own schedules and priorities, and sometimes, being alone and learning to enjoy that time alone is also a skill. 

 ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad?

In Korea, I took a Basic Korean, Comparative Politics, Data Science, and Media UX Design. All of these classes were geared to allow me to meet my graduation requirements, but I think that there is another charm about taking all of these classes abroad. The Korean class was much more immersive and useful as it allowed us to use what we’ve learned immediately in real conversation. The politics class brought together people from all over the world, allowing us to share our opinions on different events that shaped our present day. Data science abroad consisted of many labs, which made learning practical. Media UX Design is a class that isn’t commonly offered in American universities.

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

I have learned that people from different parts of the world have different ideas in terms of what they consider success. One may feel fulfillment in more family-oriented aspects, whereas others dream of a stable income. As always, I think the key to interacting with others, is keeping an open mind and trying to understand why they may think a way about certain topics.

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

Studying abroad has prepared me in the way that I know there will be times when I feel lonely, displaced, or behind my peers. However, everyone goes about their life at a different pace, and I should focus on making what I want to do a priority. It has also taught me the skills of living on my own, dealing with renting things out, finances, and other things about adulting.

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

To just do it. With studying abroad comes many challenges and worries, but if you just take it one step at a time, the experience will all be worth it in the end.

MiguelAngel Gonzalez

NAME: MiguelAngel Gonzalez
MAJOR: Continuing Education
PROGRAM: Scotland – SJSU Exchange – Edinburgh Napier University
EMAIL: miguelangel.gonzalez@sjsu.edu

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

I chose to study abroad because I had several motivations driving my decision. Firstly, from an academic perspective, I was eager to learn about engineering from a different perspective, and Scotland’s engineering programs offered a unique opportunity to do so. I believed that gaining insights from a different educational system would broaden my knowledge and provide me with a fresh outlook.

Secondly, I have always been fascinated by different cultures, and studying abroad presented the perfect chance to immerse myself in a foreign country’s way of life. Scotland’s rich history, vibrant traditions, and welcoming people piqued my curiosity. I wanted to experience daily life, customs, and traditions firsthand and develop a deeper understanding of a culture different from mine.

Lastly, I saw studying abroad as a remarkable chance for personal growth. Living independently in a foreign country would push me out of my comfort zone and foster adaptability, self-reliance, and problem-solving skills. I knew navigating a new environment, making new friends, and overcoming challenges would contribute to my personal development, boosting my self-confidence and resilience.

In summary, my decision to study abroad was driven by a combination of academic curiosity, cultural exploration, and personal growth aspirations. I believe that this experience will not only enhance my academic knowledge but also broaden my horizons and shapte me into a more well-rounded individual.

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

During my study abroad experience, I had the opportunity to learn and sharpen a wide range of skills that have greatly contributed to my personal and professional growth. In a practical engineering course, I acquired hands-on skills such as sheet-metal bending, lathe usage, and metal filing. These technical skills not only expanded my understanding of engineering principles but also equipped me with practical abilities essential in real-world engineering scenarios.

Furthermore, I took a product management course that provided me with valuable business and management skills. This course taught me how to effectively market a product, analyze its potential profitability, and collaborate with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds to create comprehensive reports. These experiences have honed my ability to apply business strategies, think critically, and work seamlessly in multicultural teams.

Apart from the technical and business skills, my study abroad experience has also helped me develop essential personal and intercultural competencies. Navigating a city on foots and being self sufficient in a foreign environment has taught me independence, adaptability, and problem-solving. Additionally, the exposure to different cultures and the diverse community I interacted with have enhanced my open-mindedness, cross-cultural communication skills, and ability to collaborate effectively in multicultural settings.

GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad?

Personal, academic, and professional aspirations drove my goals for studying abroad. On a personal level, I was motivated to live independently in a foreign country, embracing the opportunity to challenge myself and expand my horizons. By navigating a city on foot, being self-sufficient, and immersing myself in a different culture, I aimed to develop a sense of independence and open-mindedness toward diverse perspectives.

Academically, I had specific goals centered around my engineering studies. I wanted to learn about engineering from Scotland’s perspective, as its renowned engineering programs offered unique insights and approaches. By studying in a different educational system, I sought to broaden my knowledge, gain exposure to innovative techniques, and develop a comprehensive understanding of the subject. This academic enrichment would give me a fresh outlook and enhance my engineering and problem-solving skills.

Professionally, my study abroad experience was instrumental in my career development. I recognized the importance of acquiring global competencies in today’s interconnected world. By living in a foreign country, collaborating with individuals from different cultures, and adapting to new environments, I aimed to sharpen my cross-cultural communication skills, expand my professional network, and cultivate a global mindset. These skills would be invaluable in my future professional endeavors, enabling me to navigate diverse work environments and contribute to multinational teams effectively.

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

The biggest impact my study abroad experience had on me was profound personal growth and the development of a sense of independence. I broadened my perspectives by living independently in a foreign country, navigating a city on foot, and immersing myself in a different culture. I discovered the joy of being comfortable in my own company.

Throughout my study abroad journey, I learned to embrace solitude and enjoy my company. It was a transformative experience that allowed me to reflect, introspect, and appreciate the value of self-reliance. By stepping out of my comfort zone and immersing myself in unfamiliar surroundings, I became more confident in navigating challenges and exploring new experiences independently.

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?

My academic experience abroad was enriching and provided valuable opportunities to expand my knowledge and skills in various domains. The practical engineering course gave me hands-on training. I learned essential techniques such as sheet-metal bending, lathe usage, and metal filing, which equipped me with practical engineering skills crucial in real-world applications. The course deepened my understanding of engineering principles and allowed me to gain valuable experience in working with different materials and shaping them into desired forms.

In addition to the engineering course, I also had the opportunity to study product management, which was a valuable addition to my academic journey. This course focused on teaching me important aspects of marketing a product, analyzing its potential profitability, and collaborating with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds to create comprehensive reports. The knowledge and skills I gained in product management expanded my understanding of the business side of engineering. We gave me a more well-rounded perspective on product development and market viability.

Beyond the specific courses, my academic experience abroad was shaped by the overall environment and cultural immersion. Being in a foreign country allowed me to develop a global mindset and broaden my perspectives. I learned to be self-sufficient and navigate a city on foot, which fostered independence and adaptability. Moreover, being open-minded to other cultures became integral to my academic journey as I interacted with classmates and faculty members from diverse backgrounds. This exposure to different cultures and ways of thinking enhanced my ability to collaborate effectively and appreciate the richness of diversity in an academic setting.

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

Through various activities such as guided tours, engagement in school clubs, and support of local businesses, I had the opportunity to deeply engage with the local community and gain a deeper understanding of the region’s culture, history, and social dynamics.

One significant way my immersion impacted my perspectives on the world was by fostering a greater appreciation for cultural diversity and intercultural understanding. By actively participating in guided tours, I witnessed firsthand the local community’s unique traditions, landmarks, and customs. This exposure allowed me to develop a more nuanced understanding and respect for different cultural practices and perspectives. It helped me realize that there are countless ways to approach life and that diversity should be celebrated rather than feared.

Engaging in school clubs allowed me to interact with individuals from different backgrounds and cultures. Collaborating on projects, sharing experiences, and exchanging ideas allowed me to challenge my assumptions and broaden my worldview. It taught me the importance of inclusivity, empathy, and effective communication in fostering meaningful connections and promoting mutual understanding.

Supporting local businesses also played a crucial role in shaping my perspectives on the world. By actively seeking out local establishments and supporting their endeavors, I gained a deeper appreciation for the economic, social, and cultural impact of small businesses within a community. I witnessed firsthand the passion and dedication of local entrepreneurs, and this experience highlighted the significance of community support and the value of sustainable, locally-focused economies.

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

Studying abroad has significantly prepared me for my future in numerous ways. The combination of personal growth, academic enrichment, and cultural immersion has equipped me with diverse skills and perspectives that will positively impact my path.

First and foremost, the experience of living independently in a foreign country has fostered my self-sufficiency and adaptability. Navigating a city on foot, embracing solitude, and being comfortable in my company have instilled a sense of resilience and confidence. These qualities will undoubtedly serve me well in future endeavors, as I have learned to navigate unfamiliar situations, adapt to new environments, and tackle challenges proactively.

Academically, my study abroad experience has expanded my knowledge and skills in engineering and product management. The practical engineering course provided me with hands-on training in essential techniques, while the product management course deepened my understanding of marketing, profitability analysis, and cross-cultural collaboration. These academic achievements have enhanced my technical expertise, critical thinking abilities, and business acumen, which are highly valuable in a professional setting.

Moreover, my immersion in a foreign culture has broadened my perspectives and intercultural competence. By actively engaging in guided tours, participating in school clubs, and supporting local businesses, I have gained a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity and a greater understanding of global dynamics. These experiences have honed my communication skills, nurtured empathy, and strengthened my ability to collaborate effectively with individuals from different cultural backgrounds.

The combination of these experiences and skills acquired during my study abroad journey has prepared me for the future in multiple ways. Whether pursuing further academic studies, embarking on a professional career, or engaging in cross-cultural collaborations, I am equipped with the tools to thrive in a globalized and interconnected world. The self-sufficiency, adaptability, academic knowledge, and cultural awareness gained through studying abroad have shaped me into a more well-rounded individual, ready to tackle challenges and make meaningful contributions in any endeavor I pursue.

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

As a previous Global Spartan and prospective Global Ambassador, I am honored to share my advice for future students considering studying abroad. Here are some key insights and recommendations:

1. Be open-minded and embrace the unknown. Studying abroad is an opportunity for personal growth and cultural exploration. Step out of your comfort zone, try new things, and immerse yourself in the local culture. Embracing new experiences will enrich your journey and broaden your perspectives.

2. Before embarking on your study abroad adventure, take the time to plan and prepare. Research the destination, familiarize yourself with local customs, and learn some basic phrases of the local language. This groundwork will help you navigate the initial challenges and move smoothly to your new environment.

3. One of the most rewarding aspects of studying abroad is interacting with the local community. Engage in cultural activities, attend local events, and seek opportunities to volunteer or intern with local organizations. This will deepen your cultural understanding and create lasting connections and memorable experiences.

4. Embrace cultural differences and respect local customs and traditions. Approach each interaction with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Understanding and appreciating different perspectives will enrich your study abroad experience and foster meaningful connections with people from diverse backgrounds.

5. Take advantage of your academic opportunities during your study abroad program. Immerse yourself in the coursework, engage with professors and classmates, and participate actively in class discussions. Additionally, be proactive in pursuing personal growth. Reflect on your experiences, challenge your assumptions, and continuously seek new ways to expand your knowledge and skills.

6. Keep a journal or blog to document your study abroad journey. Capture your thoughts, experiences, and reflections throughout the program. This will serve as a cherished memento of your time abroad and help you process and integrate the lessons learned during your experience.

7. As a Global Ambassador, you can represent your university and share your study abroad experience with others. Embrace this role with enthusiasm and authenticity. Be a source of support and guidance for future Global Spartans, sharing your insights, answering their questions, and inspiring them to embark on their transformative study abroad journeys.

 

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)
EMAIL: breanna.dulay@sjsu.edu

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.

Michal Smoszna

NAME: Michal Zygmunt Smoszna
MAJOR: Aerospace Engineer
PROGRAM: England, SJSU Exchange – University of Birmingham
EMAIL: michal.smoszna@sjsu.edu

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

I always wanted to discover the world, and learn how it is to live and slightly settle down in a completely new environment. Foreign universities always interested me and kept me keen to learn about how other countries teach their students. I was really wanted to experience a new culture, a new government, new architecture, new economy, new everytbing and I am so ever grateful that I had this opportunity. Discovering the differences between our two countries was one thing I was very excited for and I got just that. Not to mention I wanted to meet new people and now I have a group of close friends that I’ll definitely be visiting.

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.

For starters, the US and the UK have two completely different and intriguing ways of delivering education. In the US you learn a little then have a midterm or two tests that are a bit short as each overs around 1/3 of the material. There is also homework which is assigned and guides students through the course. In the UK, exams are given only once per class and homework is entirely dependant on the student. The individuality and the mass material needed to know at the time of the exam was one of my weak points as I was used to a 10-20% final exam worth as in the US not 80% as in the UK. I most definitely sharpened by skills about studying on my own and reviewing throughout the year, as well as my abilities to study for an exam. Never before have I stressed so much, yet comprehended and tried so hard for the pass. It was a very challenging transition, but one that has given me insight and change for my future university years. To summarise: I will be spending a lot more time in the library from now on actually trying to comprehend what I’m learning instead of just memorising for the short term pass.

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?

I set out in my goals list to discover new cultures and meet new friends as well as explore and enrich my academic practices. I think as previously stated academically I learnt a lot for years to come. Personally, I met people from a plethora of cultures and backgrounds and have the pleasure to call those people my friends. I also connected with other students studying abroad from Hong Kong, Australia, Germany to name a few. I think we created a network of peers which will keep in touch and support each other no matter the distance for years to come.

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

The biggest impact was the self dependency that I created and lived by. I was very far from home and in a completely different time zone so calls were far and few. Making friends also wasn’t instant, it took me a couple of months so I was very lonely, but that thought me that’s it’s okay to be alone, something that I never before really experienced and knew how to deal with. I also learnt how to care for myself, cook for myself, heal myself (when I got sick), how to make new friends, and how to discipline myself with my study.

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 I think the maximum load of classes that I could take to still graduate from SJSU in 4 years and that was Linear Algrebra and Linear Programming, Introduction to mid 19th century French art, and Inorganic Chemistry my first semester and Materials Engineering, Circuit Analysis (Digital and Analogue), Electromagnetism – Temperature and Matter – Circuits, and Observational Astronomy my second semester. They were difficult classes all of them to be honest, especially before I figured out how to convert to studying for UK classes and exams. I tried my absolute best to follow the material we had in lecture throughout the year and this definitely helped ensure my academic success. I also began studying relentlessly for exams 3 weeks before exams everyday for hours upon hours. This sort of longer cramming helped me refresh and retain the knowledge of the classes which helped me succeed. As I mentioned earlier, now in SJSU I will spend much more time in the library before, between, and after my lectures and actively catch up and try to comprehend material as I learn it, instead of procrastinating and cramming before the tests.

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

I from starters have had a very wide perspective on our world, I frequent to Poland as I am Polish and all my non-immediate family reside there. The UK, however, added a great deal to this perspective. The US is a completely different world compared to Poland, as the US is a capatilist country from the getgo whilst Poland is a post iron curtain socialist country which employs some capitalism. The UK, however is in between Central Europe and the US. The UK speaks English, yet is retains a very dense population in cities and has a very western economy. There’s many things i could say which greatly intrigued me, one worthy to mention is the lack of copyright laws, so companies such as ALDI create delicious and cheap dupes of known brands which I took. The difference in how we speak and what we understand in British English and American English and Australian English were also very interesting and entertaining for me to learn. I most definitely have gotten a much larger world view and definitely an appreciation for American healthcare.

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

I have learnt how to care for myself and how to live on my own and am now confident of my capabilities in being self-dependant. I also know how to manage my time a lot more efficiently than before. I think in further school and when I eventually move away from home this will be very helpful and helping me adapt to whatever environment I mind myself in.

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

I’d say to most definitely make a plan on how to study and research in what way a certain country/university delivers knowledge. To me this was a very big thing to overcome and I wish I had been more prepared for it once I went over. Also, I’d like to reinforce that’s it’s okay to feel homesick and lonely/alone in the beginning. It’s a key part of learning how to adapt and  live with yourself. You kind of build yourself up anew doing this and going through this process of in a way starting over, which I think is only beneficial and gives experiences that will help in the long run.

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

Alycia Low

Alycia Low

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abigail Alcain

Abigail Alcain

Abigail AlcainNAME: Abigail Alcain
MAJOR: Biological Sciences
TERM: Spring 2022
PROGRAM: SJSU Exchange University of Roehampton, UK
EMAIL: alcainabigail@gmail.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bridgette Chang

Bridgette Chang

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

1. Why did you want to study abroad? 

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

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

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

3. Any advice to potential study abroad students? 

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

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

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

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

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

8. What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic? Some tips for staying safe and healthy while studying abroad is:

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

Diego Lefebre

Diego Lefebre

Diego Lefebre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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