Study Abroad Advice from Ambassador Matthew Helfond: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Adapt to a New Culture & More

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Anna Egan


Matthew Helfond, our May 2016 Ambassador of the Month, shares how study abroad in Argentina changed his life, advice he would give his pre-study abroad self, and what he’s gained from our IES Abroad Ambassador Program.

Matt is an Accounting major at Santa Clara University and studied on the IES Abroad Buenos Aires Latin American Societies & Cultures Program in Fall 2015.


IES Abroad: What does study abroad mean to you?

MH: Studying abroad in Argentina changed my life for the better. I was able to go out of my comfort zone and really become fluent in Spanish. I was able to work in a professional environment through an internship on my program, and I learned about the cultural differences between the United States and Argentina. Growing up in the United States, you do not think about how other countries operate unless you go there. I have now become more appreciative of where I live.

What was your greatest study abroad challenge, and how did you overcome it?

MH: My greatest challenge while studying abroad was adapting to Argentine culture, especially the Spanish language and different perspectives on timing. While I was in Argentina, I picked up the Argentine accent for pronouncing certain words and I learned how to easily communicate with my host family, other local community members, and professors. I also got accustomed to the relaxed culture where no one is in a hurry and delays are common. I especially found it difficult when I was told to show up late to my internship because I've grown up in a culture that values being on time. Argentines are much more relaxed and casual when it comes to work habits. 

What have you gained from being an IES Abroad Ambassador?

MH: As an IES Abroad Ambassador, I always recommend that if students can fit studying abroad into their busy academic schedules then they should definitely do it because there is so much to see out there. Students come to me with many questions, and I am happy that I can answer them or lead them on the right path to figure out their study abroad goals and what they can do to achieve them.

If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing before studying abroad, what would it be?

MH: If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to go out of my comfort zone even more. While trying different restaurants and visiting different parts of Buenos Aires was great, I would explore more parts of Argentina like Córdoba or Torres del Paine National Park. I think that if I went out of my comfort zone more, I would have been able to test myself and see how I could handle different situations that I wouldn't normally encounter in the United States.

Congratulations again, Matt!

The IES Abroad Ambassador Program connects our future students with our past students. If you’re interested in learning more about our Ambassador Program or have a question for a past IES Abroad student, visit our IES Abroad Ambassadors page.

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Anna Egan

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