The Upside of Taking Risks - Salamanca Alum of the Month

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Jill Kruidenier
April 3, 2014

Meet our April Alum of the Month, Santa Clara University alum, Michael Caracciolo (Salamanca '11)! Since returning from his semester abroad, Michael has been an enthusiastic IES Abroad Ambassador, assisting at study abroad fairs, editing packing lists, and responding to questions from prospective students. His dedication to the study abroad experience and passion for intercultural competence make us proud to call him an alum.

Read his interview to learn how taking a risk by studying abroad led him to work for a global risk-management company. He also shares four pieces of excellent advice at the end!

IES Abroad: Why did you choose Salamanca?
Michael Caracciolo: I chose Salamanca, Spain because I looked for a program that could best improve my Spanish, offer immersion and the ability to travel Europe. I believed (and still 100% biasedly believe) that Salamanca was the best place to pursue those things.

IES Abroad: What is your favorite memory of your semester in Salamanca?
MC: I was walking home one chilly night with my hood on and a man yelled “Hola Caperucita!” from across the street. I was still new to the language but I surprised myself and knew this word. I started laughing. We had just begun reading the book “Caperucita en Manhattan” or “Little Red Riding Hood in Manhattan” in class and even though I had been very sure that I would never hear the word “caperucita” outside of class here was a man calling me a little riding hood. I didn’t skip, but I did laugh all the way home proud of myself for being able to understand. It’s one of my favorite memories because it showed me that I was beginning to grasp the language.

IES Abroad: How did studying abroad influence you on a personal level?
MC: Studying abroad pushed my limits, made me more confident, instilled a strong desire to continue challenging myself and gave me a passion for the Spanish language.

After studying abroad, I sought out opportunities to work for a company that had a global presence where I could be exposed to other cultures.

My IES Abroad language and cultural experience qualified me for my internship at Banco de México, Mexico’s central bank. I researched and analyzed Mexico’s relative transparency of its international reserves and then made a formal presentation and recommendation to the operations division. The opportunity was a combination of two things I love - economics and Spanish. It was a dream come true and I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity.

Before graduating in June 2013 I worked at SCU’s study abroad office. Currently, I’m working at Marsh, a Marsh & McLennan company, in its rotational management training program. In essence, Marsh helps our clients identify, mitigate, and transfer risk. I’m in a client-facing position, so my day-to-day activities vary widely since they depend on client needs. For example, last week we helped a client meet regulation in a European country so that they could begin selling their product. I enjoy the people I work with. They are a smart, fun bunch that I have much to learn from.

IES Abroad: Where do you hope to be/what do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
MC: I hope to be in an environment where I can continue to challenge myself and learn. Studying abroad redefined what challenged me while showing me the rewards of learning a new language. Knowing what I can accomplish and gain, I have loftier goals for myself.

IES Abroad: Did your semester abroad come up in interviews? How did you highlight it?
MC: Yes, in interviews I usually brought up my study abroad experience since it had such an impact on me. I drew upon my experiences abroad to highlight how I could learn and adapt in a new environment and how I could work with others from different backgrounds.

IES Abroad Salamanca students in Segovia, SpainIES Abroad: What advice would you give students who are thinking of going abroad?

  1. Go! Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so don’t miss out.
  2. Think about what you want to get out of your experience before you choose where to study. Do you want to travel a lot? Do you want to be culturally immersed? Do you want to learn the language? Also, remember that you’ll be living there for a while. Is this a place that you want to visit or live? What is the standard of living? Will you have to commute often?
  3. Seriously learn the local language and practice some before you go.
  4. Make friends with locals. They will be some of the most interesting and different people that you’ll meet and they’ll think the same of you. Learning more about their culture will help you understand your own better. Plus, they know where the best local spots are.
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