iStudent Corner: Emilia from Honduras exploring California

Today, we are interviewing Emilia Rodriguez, who is originally from Honduras, and spent a year studying at Stanford in California.  

Where did you study and why?

I studied at the Stanford University in California during my year abroad.  I chose the United States because that’s where I always wanted to live since I could think.  I also wanted to improve my English and learn more about the American Culture.  I thought that by spending a year in the U.S. I could test the water and figure out if that’s where I really wanted to be in my life.   I chose Stanford not only because it is a great school, but also because there is a huge hispanic community in the area so I wouldn’t miss home too much.

Why did you decide to study abroad?  

I  knew that I always wanted to leave Honduras as life abroad would open new doors and give me the opportunity for a better life, eventually.  I also think that going to study abroad really tests you in many ways.  You are not only in a different country, with a foreign language and different culture(s), but you’re also all alone and have to take all the courage you have and make it through!  It’s probably one of the best tests to prepare you for the real world and a great experience all together.

What was the best or most rewarding aspect of this experience?

Hmm, I think that the most rewarding aspects of my experience were the relationships I’ve built.  The friends that I have made, who I’m still friends with and really close to – as a matter of fact, one of them is my current roommate 🙂

Other than that I’m extremely proud of myself that I conquered this experience all by myself.  I didn’t know much English before I got there, but I studied hard to keep up at school and integrate with natives and their culture.  I feel I have become part of it.

Did you experience culture shock? If so, how did you deal with it?

Things over here in the U.S. are a lot different. However, but I guess since there is such a big of South American influence in California, I found comfort in the various mexican restaurants who serve very similar food to what I was used to:  Rice, beans, tortillas, grilled meats and salads.

Since I only spent one year abroad, and there was so much new stuff to take in, I wasn’t really able to experience much of a culture shock.  I also kept myself busy with lots of activities at school, I babysat Mexican family’s daughter who were very warm and made me feel like I was part of their family.

I do admit that I was amazed at the party scene.  I thought this craziness only existed in Hollywood movies, but I went to several Toga parties and learned how to play beer pong. I also found it a little surprising how everyone was obsessed with working out.  I don’t think I met anyone during my stay that didn’t work out either in the mornings or went to the gym during lunch break or at night before going out.

What was the toughest part of studying abroad?

I think learning English was the hardest part. But by making an effort in trying to hang out with as many English speaking friends as I could, watching lots of movies in English with English subtitles and joining lots of university clubs I was forced to learn quickly.

Writing papers was still hard, but I tried as best as I could and luckily I had friends who would proofread my work.  They would also explain the changes they made so I could remember not to make the same mistakes again.

Another tough part was giving group presentations.  I have never been fond of standing in front of a large group, but doing it in a foreign language seemed impossible at first.  But after the first times, where I used to turn as red as a tomato and stutter, I eventually figured it out and learned that everyone is in the same situation, and that nobody really judges you (except for the professor of course 😉 ).

What was the craziest/funniest/most amazing moment you experienced during your stay abroad?

I think the most amazing moment I experienced were New Year’s Celebration fireworks.  I had never seen them in real life before.  And when I was standing on a roof top with friends in San Francisco, and everybody counted down the seconds until the New Year, and an amazing firework was presented at 00:00 I just felt like that was the best thing I’ve ever experienced.  Goose bumps were running down all over my body, it was simply amazing.

Do you think that studying abroad has had some positive impact on your professional development and career opportunities?

Absolutely.  Knowing two different languages and the affect different cultures can have helped me become more understanding in both personal and professional life.  I work at an international company where I deal with people from different countries, so being aware that people have different expectations lets me perform a lot better.

I also think that you will have better chances of getting a job if you have studied abroad.  I’m almost certain that if an employer is deciding between you, and someone who has never been abroad, they will choose the one who has international experience.

I can only recommend studying abroad.  And although there are ups and downs, and it will definitely be hard at times, I can promise that – but you will make it, you will grow so much and have a much richer life!


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