Christine O’Dea - 2013 Program Participant

Excursion to Newgrange
Excursion to Newgrange. Photo courtesy of API

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I have wanted to study abroad for as long as I can remember. When I went on a trip to Colorado to visit a friend, her roommates just returned from abroad, and after hearing about their experiences, I knew I had to go as well.

Why did you choose your program?

Originally, I was all set to go with a different study abroad program, but my mentor/college professor e-mailed me saying that she didn’t think that program was the best fit for me. I applied to API the night before applications were due, and after I carefully compared and looked at several programs and their credentials, reputations, etc.

What makes the program you participated in so interesting?

The API staff, at large, is caring, personable, and genuine. From the first phone call I made to ask them a simple question about my application, all the way through every in-person, online, and phone interaction I’ve had with them, I had the sense that they really cared for me and my needs as a student. Program-wise, I think there were fantastic excursions, a huge variety of class options, great homestays, and awesome staff abroad.

What is the best thing about your program that future participants need to know?

I think future participants need to know about and really take advantage of all of the incredible student-centered programs API has. I participated in a few of them, including the Blogger Program, Cultural Liaison Program, and Peer Mentor Program. API really wants their students to have unique and fulfilling abroad experiences, and through these programs I think that’s exactly what they offer. I found that each program I participated in helped me, as a study abroad student, discover so many aspects of study abroad that I never expected to find, like the importance of writing about my experience, immersing myself in the culture, and finding ways to share this new passion even after I returned from Spain.

What's one thing you would have done differently?

I would have gone for one year instead of one semester.

Now that you're home, how has study abroad impacted your life?

I think that for me, growth takes place in every moment that I realize how big the world is, and that there are people, places, food, and cultures that are intensely different from what I have encountered so far in life. I had many of these moments while abroad, and as a result, I grew in many ways--personally, professionally, academically, and socially. Study abroad humbled me by showing me how big the world is.

Simultaneously, it reminded me that I can make a difference regardless of how big the world is, by continuing to explore it and by connecting with others. I know I will carry both of these outlooks with me for the rest of my life.