Kaelynn Sporka

Kaelynn enjoying a beautiful day
in Sydney Harbour in Australia!

Kaelynn studied abroad around the world with Semester at Sea and did an internship in Sydney, Australia.  She now works as a Site Specialist Supervisor at CEA Global Education.

Where did you go to school?

Arizona State University

When and where did you study abroad?

Spring 2008 – Semester at Sea
Fall 2009 – Undergraduate internship with Global Gossip in Sydney, Australia

What was the BEST part about studying abroad?

My favorite part of being abroad is witnessing how other people live but also being able to take part in it. There is no better way to learn about something than to experience it first-hand. I loved just getting lost in a new place or walking around with no real plans until my feet got tired. I discovered so many interesting places and met so many interesting people by wandering around with no set itinerary. It’s hard to have the time to explore when you’re on a quick tour or vacation; with studying abroad, you get to become immersed in a place and even have the classes to reinforce what you’re experiencing. There is really nothing quite like it.

What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?

I learned the world is full of contradictions. The world is both big and very, very small. People are people no matter where they live, what their religion is, their government, their pastimes; we are all in this life together, but at the same time we are also in it for ourselves. People can be welcoming, but they can be prejudiced. There are great riches in the world, but there is still a lot of sorrow. While I already knew a lot of this before I studied abroad, it didn’t truly resonate with me until I was in the middle of it all.

I learned that I am a global citizen and I’m truly connected to the world at large. I can actually have the capacity to make an imprint on how the world works, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be through working for a non-profit or an NGO. There isn’t actually a “wrong” way to make the world a better place and I can be a contributing factor to that improvement.

I also learned that travel will forever be really important to me. The travel bug bit me pretty hard!

What was your BIGGEST challenge when studying abroad?

Both times I went abroad, I went by myself and didn’t know anyone else in advance. As much as I loved meeting new people, discovering new cafes, talking to locals, and letting myself get lost in a new place, after a while that started to get exhausting. Sometimes I just wanted to see people who had known me for longer than a few months, or I wanted to eat a big plate of cheesy Mexican food, or I just wanted to be able to watch some regular American TV. I handled it by reminding myself how badly I wanted to go abroad and how lucky I was to have the opportunity. Usually, it was only a matter of time before I was back to being exhilarated by all the neat things I was surrounded by (and the burrito place I discovered definitely helped!).

How did studying abroad change your life?

Personally, I knew that I liked travel, but through studying abroad I discovered that I like travel because it can be educational. I was a tourism major in college, and studying abroad helped me understand that I am not the biggest fan of tours meant for mass tourist consumption. Don’t get me wrong, those can be a ton of fun (I would know!), but I prefer authentic experiences and travel that can be more meaningful to some capacity. I learned that I actually enjoy a challenge because that’s the fastest way to grow, either through success or through failure, and studying abroad definitely had its challenges. Also, studying abroad helped me learn how to approach people, how to take responsibility for my actions, and really realize that it’s best not to set expectations.

Professionally (besides the obvious of working in the field), I am more understanding of other people, open to change, and I realize that there isn’t always one solution to a problem, all of which have been very valuable in the workplace.

What have you been doing post studying abroad?

After studying abroad and graduating, I worked for a wholesale travel agency planning trips to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. After that, I started working for CEA Global Education, where I am now Site Specialist Supervisor. In my position, I work with CEA’s international and U.S. staff to help prepare students for their programs abroad: we advise on visas, courses, housing options, health & safety, communication, and the major logistics students will need to know to start their programs and GO!


What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?

Stop thinking about it and just make it happen. Don’t fret about the little details (i.e. “what will I eat?” or “what if I don’t know how to buy a metro pass?”) and you may not even need to fret about the big ones (i.e. “where am I going to live?” or “what country should I go to?”). A lot of those details will work themselves out. If you get too focused on the little things and set too many expectations, you might be restricting yourself from experiencing something bigger, better, and unimaginable. Wouldn’t you rather have an adventure beyond your wildest dreams? If so, stop trying to define your dreams in advance. Identify a few of the most important things for you (maybe you want to learn French, maybe you really want to see Rome, or maybe you just really want to get out of the country and the destination doesn’t matter). Then just worry about the important logistics and let everything else come together for what it is.

 
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