She is now back in the USA, finishing her studies and participating in Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Incorporated, a Latina based multicultural sorority, dedicated to diversity. In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, we reached out to Giselle and picked her brain on culture and study abroad, curious about how it interacts with her Latinx identity and perspective.
Tell us about your study abroad experiences. What were some similarities and differences?
I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain and Paris, France. I learned a lot about myself in both places, along with the cultures there. By stepping out of my comfort zone in both countries, I experienced a lot of personal growth. I was able to fulfill by B.A in Spanish and my minor in French by being fully immersed while simultaneously taking languages classes. A cultural aspect that I found similar within both cities was that everything runs at such a rapid pace. There is a lot of “people watching” when going out and getting an espresso at a café. The plus side to being in Spain was that I knew the language. Spanish is my native language, therefore it was very easy to communicate with the Spaniards around me. I did think it was very interesting how everyone noticed I came from a Mexican background due to my accent. They could automatically distinguish that I wasn’t Spaniard just by the way that I spoke.
My experience in Paris was also phenomenal. This experience was quite different because I was not exactly fluent in the language, therefore there were some new barriers. I stayed with a host family, which was an amazing time. I was able to strengthen my French skills thanks to my host mom and brother. They really made me feel at home. Paris is absolutely beautiful. I cannot say there was a single thing that made me not like this experience. For example, the cuisine was delicious. The monuments and museums were beautiful. I fell in love with Paris and I hope to return one day.
When I think back upon my experiences, I realize this is barely the beginning. I was able to do so much with a 5-month time frame in Madrid and a 4-week time frame in Paris. I learned that I’m capable of doing whatever I set my mind to. I am an influential person in my family and it is an honor to be able to leader my younger sibling and other family members, showing them that anything is possible. I am the first person in my family (including extended family) to go to a 4- year university and am the first person to go to Europe. I am really proud of how far I have gotten so far.
How has your family influenced your decision to study abroad?
My mom is everything for me. She has been my biggest role model in everything that I do, and a strong influence. She has always been so strong minded and hard working, setting an example for me. She helps me achieve my dreams. I honestly don’t know where I would be in life if I didn’t have her in it. She has been such a great help financially. I know that once I graduate and have a set career, it will all be worth it. I will be able to help her the way that she’s been helping me. My mom and dad have been the best possible that a child could have.
What advice do you have for potential Latinx study abroad students? How about first generation students?
I am grateful to say that I was able to go on both of these study abroad trips debt free. The advice I give to potential Latinx study abroad student is to START THE APPLICATION PROCESS EARLY. Going to a 4-year university really does open a lot of doors. Because of the University of Idaho, I have been able to fulfill many accomplishments. I also think it is important to ask questions! No question is a dumb or pointless question. It is very important to be as informed as possible. Do your homework and research about the country you want to go to and see if you like its styles and what they are made of. There is a lot of paperwork when it comes to studying abroad therefore it is very important to connect with the study abroad advisors as much as possible because they are there to help.
How was your cultural awareness changed by studying abroad?
I believe my cultural awareness has expanded with my study abroad experiences! I have learned how to appreciate every new thing that comes my way. As a person from a Mexican background, I do acknowledge that not everybody’s culture is the same as my own, but that is what makes this world beautiful.
What does it mean to you to be a Latinx student, studying abroad?
As a Latina student, studying abroad means that us people in the minority population can also do anything we put our minds to. I am proud of myself and feel that I represent my Latinx community. I can honestly say that I feel very humbled by everything that I have been able to accomplish and ISA was a very supportive study abroad agency that helped me make it happen.
Giselle Andrade is an ISA Global Ambassador at University of Idaho. She studied with ISA in Paris, France, Spring 2019.
Interview conducted by Jessica Terrell, an ISA Alumni Relations Coordinator.
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