After I graduated high school, I had the privilege of studying abroad in Belgium for a year through Rotary Youth Exchange. In my time abroad, I attended a fifth year at a culinary high school, learned to speak fluent Dutch, met many amazing people—including my host families and friends I made there—and got to travel most of Europe. There was no question in my mind that I would study abroad again. Originally, I wanted to spend my junior year of high school and a gap year abroad, but when that didn't pan out, I knew that studying abroad in college was a must. When looking at places to go, South America has always been high on my list since I love the warm culture of the people there, the food, the music, and the beautiful landscapes that can be found.
During my undergrad, I wondered if going abroad was ever going to work out, since COVID-19 ramped up three months after I started. I had many enriching experiences in my undergrad including volunteering on a farm in Maui, Hawaii, and Homer, Alaska for a month each. I also conducted Spanish-to-English bilingualism research in Puerto Rico. I took a semester off and traveled across the USA by car for a month and traveled to Egypt to connect with my family and back to the place I had originally studied abroad. I traveled through different programs that my university offered and I was so grateful for these opportunities, but they weren’t full immersion study abroad and I felt I was lacking something.
Luckily, the time has finally come for me to go abroad again. This semester, I will participate in the emerging economies program in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. We also will have a trip to Peru. At first, this program seemed too good to be true. Not only could I study abroad in one country, but two? And go on an educational trip to Peru with the program? Count me in!
As I am writing this, I am in the airport ready to fly to Buenos Aires. Before my study abroad started, I took advantage of the time I had left after my summer research ended and solo traveled through Medellin, Colombia, and Quito, Ecuador. I then traveled to São Paulo, Brazil to reunite with friends from my gap year abroad. Solo traveling helped me to increase my confidence and Spanish skills while navigating other parts of South America before the big move to Argentina and Chile. So far, I have loved my experience solo traveling and I am even more excited to be fully immersed and living in the culture after spending time in these countries. Highlights include going on a coffee farm tour and spa experience, seeing Cotopaxi Volcano, and reuniting with friends in Brazil. I cannot wait to keep everyone updated through this blog!
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Hello! My name is Amanda & I am a senior at Penn State University, studying Labor and Human Resources, Global and International Studies, and Spanish. I love traveling, spending time outside, reading, cooking, and spending time with my friends!