Katherine Iandoli studied abroad in Monteverde, Costa Rica and is currently pursuing her marketing degree at the Catholic University of America.
Where do you go to school?
Catholic University of America
When and where did you study abroad?
Summer 2010: Costa Rica
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
My favorite part about studying abroad was living with my host family in the mountains of Monteverde, Costa Rica. Not only was I able to practice my Spanish, but I was able to become completely immersed in the culture. I spent so much time laughing, cooking, hanging out, talking, and playing games with the family. The family was so incredibly welcoming, I could not have asked for a better set of people to be placed with. My favorite part about every day was coming home to my host family and exchanging funny stories from our day. There was never a dull moment while I lived in Monteverde.
The last couple of days leading up to my trip, I was beyond scared to leave the United States and my family for the first time. But because of my amazing host family, all of the fears that I had were left behind. I had made a home away from home and that is something I will never forget. To this day I am still in contact with my Monteverde host family!
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
From studying abroad, I was able to see how diverse the world truly is. I learned that rice is served with every meal in much of the Spanish speaking world. I learned that the best way to learn about not only a new culture, new people, and life in general, but to learn about yourself as well, is exploring with an open mind. From surfing for the first time, to zip lining through the Costa Rican mountains, I realized that I can really do anything. Before the trip, never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be living in a country other than the United States. But the whole experience really showed to me that I can do anything I want. I also discovered that I am a lot more independent than I had thought.
What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?
One challenge was not being allowed to put toilet paper in the toilet. That was definitely something I was not accustomed to! But the biggest challenge for me was leaving my family. First off, I had never left the country before going to Costa Rica. And I had never left my family for more than about 5 days either. So all of it was quite scary for a young 17 year old. I would be a liar if I said that I didn’t cry my eyes out when I said goodbye to my mom at the airport. But I knew that a great experience was ahead of me and everything would be the same when I returned.
How did studying abroad change your life?
Going abroad forced me to step out of my comfort zone, especially in terms of language. While I was in Costa Rica, not only did I attend Spanish class five days a week, I was living with host families that only spoke Spanish, allowing for full immersion. The trip had greatly improved my Spanish skills, and I know for a fact that is something that will always help me – whether it is to communicate easier with some people, or help me to get a job in the future.
Also, I learned how to live and interact with people of a completely different culture. Having a skill like that will help in nearly any job field because it is necessary to understand how to appreciate other cultures.
The most important thing that I learned however, was how to adapt. To survive anywhere in the world under any condition, a person must know how to adapt. Change in the only certainty in life, but if one knows how to adapt to different changes, he or she can survive anywhere.
What are your future plans?
I am currently a marketing major and Spanish minor, and plan to graduate in the spring of 2015. After that, my goal is to get a job in advertising. I love big cities and I also love the south, so ideally I would love to be working in a city like Dallas, TX. I would also love to be able to use my language skills in my future job. My ultimate dream is to one day open my own marketing/advertising business. That has always been a dream of mine and I don’t plan on stopping until I get there!
What’s your BEST piece of advice for someone who is thinking about studying abroad?
My best piece of advice that I could give about studying abroad is to go into the experience with an open mind. Have no expectations and you will have the best time of your life. Be open to trying new foods, doing new activities, and meeting new people. The whole abroad experience should be about trying new things because you may never have the chance to do something like this again. It is extremely important to have a willing and curious outlook. If you allow all of this to happen, you will do and discover things about yourself you never would be able to without a study abroad experience.