Student reflects on study-abroad experience
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 23:10
When Brandy Armstrong set out for Chile in February to begin her first semester as an international student, she had no idea what exactly she was getting herself into. With a desire to improve her Spanish and a hope to have fun while pursuing her education, she set out to a foreign land with a backpack and a smile.
“I had always wanted to go to South America,” said Armstrong, a senior studying nursing with a minor in Spanish. “I love the culture and the language, and the study abroad program helped my dream to come true. I had met students from Chile here on campus and I always thought how cool it would be to go to their country and experience college life and school in a whole new way.”
USU students can hear Armstrong spea on Oct. 9 in TSC 335 during Common Hour. She will be sharing her own experiences from Chile and educating students on how they can sign up for their own study abroad program at the Catholic University of Valparaiso in Chile.
Armstrong said her experience was something unlike anything else.
“While I was there, I was fortunate enough to live with the Villavicencia family, who welcomed me with warm arms,” Armstrong said. “They were so great, and I was able to learn so much from them.”
Armstrong was never bothered by the fact there was no carpet or air conditioning in the Villavicencia’s house. She said she was there to learn how to adapt and love the changes she was faced with.
Even though travel by public bus to the Chilean campus was “a little scary at times,” Armstrong said she never had a problem making it to class.
“The driving there was crazy, but they are good at what they do,” she said. “I never saw an accident while I was there.”
Spanish was the only language her professors used.
“I was lost at first,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t understand anything.”
Before going to Chile, Armstrong had taken college Spanish classes up to the 3000 level and knew commonly-used grammar, but being immersed in the language put her knowledge to the test.
“Being surrounded by people who speak Spanish was a huge help,” Armstrong said. “It kind of forced you to learn the language. I struggled at first, but by the end of the semester I was able to keep up with the class and take notes, as well as being able to write full papers.”
Even though the classes she was taking were challenging at first, Armstrong said she was able to pass all of them with good grades. She earned 12 credit hours, a nice addition to her “once in a lifetime experience.”
Armstrong said she enjoyed the Chilean activities she could participate in once her homework was finished.
“I loved going and playing in the ocean,” she said of her daily ritual she took part in with other foreign students.
Her free time didn’t stop at the ocean. Armstrong traveled to Argentina and Peru, and she visited the ruins of Machu Picchu.