We’re happy to chat with Andrea Rodriguez, our May IES Abroad Ambassador of the Month! Andrea spent a full academic year studying abroad on our Santiago – Politics, Social Justice & Language Program, and she recently graduated from the University of St. Thomas with majors in Human Resources Management & Spanish culture.
In this interview, Andrea opens up about how she integrated into local life abroad and made Santiago feel like home.
IES Abroad: What would tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?
Andrea Rodriguez: If you are considering studying abroad, I would 110% say go for it. It can seem intimidating at first, but it turns into excitement once all the details are finalized and you are at the airport waving goodbye to your loved ones.
Studying abroad changed me for the better in so many ways. I learned about Chilean culture, loving others, communication, and friendship. This experience shed light on my perspective of where I grew up, and I learned to be a more globally aware individual. Everyone takes different memories home with them after their study abroad experience, and I think you owe it to yourself to figure out how those experiences will impact you and your future.
IES Abroad: What tips would you give students to help them make their host country feel like home?
AR: The biggest obstacle for me to overcome was familiarizing myself with Santiago, Chile. When I first arrived on site everything was new and exciting. After some time though, I began to compare my current location to my hometown, and I began to feel homesick.
I found comfort in my IES Abroad Center, and I reached out to the on-site staff for recommendations. I loved running when I was at home in Minnesota, so I asked them to connect me with a running group in the area. I also enjoyed volunteering, and they connected me with others at the local university that had the same interests as I did. With time, I began to build relationships with others in the community and that helped a lot.
My recommendation to other students would be to reach out to the staff on site and tell them what you’re interested in. They are experts at what is going on within your city and will have tons of connections to help you find a group of people that have the same interests as you. Pretty soon, you’ll start to feel like the natives, and you’ll have a new home away from home.
IES Abroad: What have you gained from being an IES Abroad Ambassador?
AR: I have loved being an IES Abroad Ambassador because it has given me the opportunity to reflect on my time abroad and really understand how that experience changed me. I have also been able to advise others to take the great leap into the unknown and find out for themselves why everyone raves about studying abroad.
Being an IES Abroad Ambassador has allowed me to talk with others about their experiences and learn more about different parts of the world. I truly believe that living abroad opens up your mind to different cultures and experiences and brings us together as one.
Thank you, Andrea!
Are you ready to take the leap into the great unknown of study abroad? Learn more about our study abroad Santiago programs.