The Impact of Study Abroad
Naomi Martens ’23 shares the impact of her study abroad experience.
My name is Naomi Martens, a senior music performance major and Spanish minor. As a senior, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with possibilities and decisions. Where will I be a year from now? How will I utilize my degree post-graduation? What goals will I have when I no longer have deadlines for papers and assignments? I have been reflecting on these and other questions this semester and simultaneously learning to prioritize the aspects of my life that are the most important.
I thrive in situations where I am exploring, engaging with my environment, and learning. This year, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Almería, Spain, for six months through the International Student Exchange Program, a partner of Southwestern University. As a partner program, I was able to use my existing financial aid and was placed at the Universidad de Almería.
I selected a program where I was the only student from Southwestern and one of only four American students. Because of this, I had trepidations about the language barrier and engaging with other students and faculty. As an added challenge, I would be taking classes in subjects outside of music, such as Tourism Marketing and Project Management, while playing with the orchestra in Almería. Despite these concerns, I immediately connected with exchange students from all over Europe during the school’s international students’ welcome orientation. I gained valuable skills adapting to an entirely different school system and completing projects (not without some difficulty) where our only common language was non-native Spanish. Not only did I discover a love for cross-cultural communication, but also my love of the Spanish language. I enrolled in an intensive Spanish course through the language center and was surprised by the improvement in my understanding after only a few months!
From this program, I gained independence through solo traveling and confidence in engaging across cultures. Now that I have had this experience, I changed my minor to Spanish and plan to study abroad once again this summer to complete my final Spanish credits! The SU Granada Advanced Spanish program will assist with my goal to pursue a graduate degree in Spanish and enable me to teach violin bilingually. As a first-year, I dreamed of studying abroad. As I am applying for financial aid for this summer, I cannot imagine that I might have the opportunity to go abroad twice during my undergraduate career! This would never have been possible without the support of the Office of Study Abroad and International Student Services, especially during the incredibly difficult Visa and passport process, and donors who financially support students to participate in life-changing high-impact experiences, such as study abroad.
You can support high-impact experiences (study abroad, community engaged-learning, student-faculty research, and internships) for students, like Naomi, by making your gift at www.southwestern.edu/makeagift.