Shane Heckman

Shane Heckman

Making new best friends, living in the moment, seizing every opportunity. What more could you ask for? (Shane second from right)

Shane studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain and is currently studying at Penn State University.

Where did you go to school?

Penn State University

When and where did you study abroad?

Summer 2012: Barcelona, Spain through CEA Global Education

What was the BEST part about studying abroad?

It’s hard to pick the BEST part about studying abroad because there were so many benefits from mastering another language to travelling opportunities to enriching yourself in a new culture. If I had to pick, I would choose the people you meet. Whether it’s the friends and roommates you bond with from across the country, the local taxi drivers you converse with, or the teachers you learn from, everyone shares a personal story. Some are just best friends for a moment and some become best friends for life, but in the end everyone brings something different to the table and no one story is the same.

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

Stepping outside of the United States, you might be in for culture shock. Houses and apartments are smaller, life isn’t nearly as luxurious, and patience really is a virtue – ESPECIALLY around meal times. All in all, you learn how to adapt and be respectful of another culture and in turn gain valuable insight into just how good we have it here in America. I personally learned how to be more independent and resourceful and how to make the most out of every opportunity. Furthermore, studying abroad taught me that it’s okay to try and fail in foreign situations; if you want something bad enough, sometimes in life you just have to go for it and figure the rest out along the way. In the end, everything works out. If it doesn’t, it’s not the end.

What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?

My biggest challenge was actually finding food to eat. I’ve recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease and my digestive system can’t process wheat, rye, or barley. It’s hard enough explaining my condition in English let alone Spanish, and even harder in Spain where bread sits on the table and taunts you for half an hour before your appetizers come out. Like anything else I learned to roll with it – even if I was pretty sure an item was safe to eat and the waiter refused to order it for me – and chalked it up as part of the experience. I wasn’t about to let a few meals ruin the rest of my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

How did studying abroad change your life?

As I mentioned before, studying abroad has helped me in numerous ways. In learning to value a different way of life, you appreciate what you have at home and stop taking certain aspects of life for granted. Overall, my trip made me a more independent and self-sufficient person, and I know that when I go into the real world in a few years I won’t have any trouble finding my own way.

What are your future plans?

Right now I’m still a student at Penn State University. Going forward, I plan to keep my options open about my career. I don’t know exactly what I want to do in the business world, but studying abroad has fortified my dream to make a global impact. There’s so much of the world to see and so many people don’t take advantage of opportunities when they arise, so I know that I will definitely work where I can travel internationally as part of my job. Regardless, at the end of the day, no matter where I am five or ten years from now, I’ll still look back on my incredible journey and have no regrets whatsoever.

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

GO! It’s really that simple, and it’s what I always tell other students sitting on the fence. College is the time of your life when studying abroad is the most feasible and the most useful. If you keep telling yourself you’ll do it once you’re done with college, once your kids grow up, once you retire…it’s never going to happen! Even if you do manage to go later in life, the experience won’t be the same because you’ll either be with a family or on business and won’t be living it up with new friends. College is supposed to be the best four years of your life; a time for living in the moment; a time for no regrets. Even if you’re thinking of objecting to the idea now, at least entertain the thought. Your opportunity could pass before you know it, and you’ll be stuck forever holding your peace.

Olivia Perek

Olivia studied abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica through CEA Global Education. She currently attends Champlain College and will be graduating in December.

Brittany Rose

Brittany studied abroad for a year in Aix-en-Provence, France and will be returning to France in the Fall of 2013 to pursue a masters degree at the University of Bordeaux III.

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