Nikki studied abroad in Santiago, Chile and is now the Partner Relations Manager at GoAbroad.com.
Where did you go to school?
University of Wisconsin – Madison
When and where did you study abroad?
Spring 2008: Santiago, Chile – University of Wisconsin-Madison program to Universidad Catolica
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
The best part about studying abroad for me was learning a new language fully. After living with a host family as well as a Chilean roommate and attending classes that were 100% in Spanish, the language became natural for me. By the end of my six months abroad I felt like I could communicate with people effectively, even complex ideas.
I was incredibly lucky that I was able to travel during my time in Chile. The bus system is well-developed and affordable, allowing me to explore as far south as Punta Arenas and as far north as San Pedro de Atacama. Chile is also a great jump-off point for visits to Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru.
I also loved the empanadas and completos in Chile – they are delicious!
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
Through my experience studying abroad, I was able to see lifestyles that were different from my own but still had the same underlying value of family and friends. I realized there is no one right way to do things and also discovered my personal way of adjusting to unclear and unfamiliar situations.
What was your BIGGEST challenge when studying abroad?
My biggest challenge during study abroad was realizing that the entire perception of time was different in Latin America. Being alright with long lines, red tape, decentralization, and lack of a schedule was something that took a bit of effort. At first rather than appreciating how much time Chileans spend with family, or how they are willing to do something for you and not look at their watch, I instead focused on how I had to wait 2 hours at the police station to register my visa. Over time it didn’t bother me as much that I didn’t know when the next bus would pass my house, but this was definitely my biggest challenge.
How did studying abroad change your life? How did it help you personally and professionally?
Studying abroad made me realize that travel can be something more than a one-week trip or tour. The people I met on weekend trips in hostels incorporated their love of learning about the world into their lifestyle, and that was eye-opening for me. Once I found out this was possible, I imagined the ways I could adjust my future so international and cross-cultural experiences were a part of it. However, I didn’t truly understand international education was a field in and of itself, and a huge one at that! Now that I’m involved in study, interning, volunteering, and other adventures abroad, I don’t want to leave. :)
What have you been doing post studying abroad?
After studying abroad, I completed my degrees at UW-Madison (history and studio art). I then moved to Colorado to work for AmeriCorps at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Fort Collins and Loveland, Colorado. This led me to GoAbroad, whose office in Fort Collins was hiring for a position shortly after my contract for Boys & Girls Club ended. At GoAbroad I get to work with the partners who list their programs on our site, as well as colleges and universities throughout the United States. I work closely with our Outreach Coordinators, who are the on-the-road reps, as well as our Partner Relations Representatives, who manage each account on the site. It’s the best of both worlds!
What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?
Do it! Even if you don’t think you can afford it, or that it won’t fit in with your major, or that you’ve never left the country and are intimidated, find someone on your campus who can sit down and answer your detailed questions. It IS possible!