Aaron Smith - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I first wanted to go abroad in high school. I had several amazing teachers who encouraged it, and were very influential in pushing me to go outside of the United States. Now while studying in university (majoring in international relations and international business) I realized that in order to take a serious interest in my career, there would be no better way to learn than to experience it abroad.

Hikers in Nicaragua
Aaron and two friends on the trip hiking a volcano in Nicaragua between Managua and Granada

Why did you choose the CGE Central America program?

I have always been intrigued by Latin America. In 2010, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica. All throughout high school I took Spanish language and Spanish literature courses, and in college I also took a Spanish language and Latin American political science course.

The geography of Central America has always fascinated me. Originally I wanted to experience a new country, Cuba. But, after a change of events (and a stroke of luck) I chose the Central America program, which focuses intently in the social change of the country. This was a brilliant placement for me, because I am honing my studies to work in the social fields. These two interests were combined perfectly in this one trip. 

What made the CGE Central America program particularly interesting?

This program was interesting because of how perfectly symbiotic it was. There was no way for me to take a program with this level of harmony between my interests. In addition, as I struggled through paperwork (from my home college), the CGE directors and program leaders were easy to work with and made getting all of the details worked out painless and effortless.

Pacific Coast sunset in Costa Rica
Admiring the view at a Pacific Coast beach in Costa Rica with Caesar, the area director.

What was the best part your program?

The best part of this program was the intense and extensive range of information - everything from politics to economy, history, religion, and studies of indigenous women. The way that the courses were laid out made it easy to focus on one thing, without being distracted from everything else I wanted to do, see, and experience. There were no other programs I found that allowed travel to so many different places. I found the ability to study in a few amazing locations a great opportunity to compare and contrast one to the other, and that in itself made it easier to understand what it was I was learning in and out of the classroom.

What would you have done differently?

I would have loved to have had a bigger budget, because there was so much that you have opportunity and free time to do. It was hard to choose what to do and what not to do, because I had a limited budget. If I’d had more money I would have loved to have taken a few more independent excursions and even traveled within the cities we were in. It was all such a great experience that I wish that I could have done even more.

American student playing baseball with kids in Nicaragua
Taken after a great baseball game in Miraflor, Nicaragua. Aaron got to talk to the kids about their lives, their family participation, and had a great time of playing baseball.

How did your experience abroad impact your life?

The impact of my study abroad experience cannot be summed up in a brief summary. There was so much that I learned about, about the world, about the countries, about the people, and about myself, that when I got home I felt like I had just re-found myself. There were too many things, but one thing I can briefly elaborate on is how I saw my goals in life change. Before, I was a business major, but after my time abroad I knew that there was no way I could be a business major. I no longer saw myself doing business, but wanting to find a way to meet the needs of people on a different level.