December 6, 2012

Studying Abroad Shaping Student's College Experience

Studying Abroad Shaping Student's College Experience

Emily Shea '14 recognizes the value of having the world as her extended classroom.

Her interest in travel was sparked while she was still in high school, having visited Portugal, Greece and Turkey. Those trips reaffirmed her already growing desire to spend a semester abroad during college.

Shea spent the summer of 2012 in London, as part of a U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission award, where she participated in the three-week cultural and academic program "Getting a Head Start: Learning about Leadership Through the 2012 Olympic Games." Her trip allowed her to take in Olympic events, the London 2012 Festival and London's numerous and historic attractions.

The fall 2012 semester took her to another part of the world-San Jose, Costa Rica, where she is studying at Universidad Veritas. During her stay in the Central American country, she has taken two intensive Spanish language courses, as well as an Intercultural Communications course and a colloquium about Costa Rican History and Culture, each course as a building block for a larger lifelong mission.

Shea was initially unsure of the path she wanted to pursue when she came to Emmanuel as a freshman. She took a variety of classes to figure out which subjects were the best fit-and sociology stood out among the rest.

"Everything we discussed in class just made sense to me," Shea said.

She was further influenced by the extracurricular activities she became involved in, including volunteering at OLPH Mission Grammar School, participating in Alternative Spring Break and working at Habitat for Humanity builds.

"Sociology allows me to question why we see things the way we do, and how our cultural backgrounds affect our viewpoints," Shea said. "I can apply sociological concepts to the unjust social structures that plague our world. Most importantly, when applied properly, sociology has the power to change these structures. I hope that I will be able utilize everything I learn at Emmanuel to create positive change in the world, wherever life takes me." 

Shea feels passionately that every student should find a way to study abroad, whether it is for a short-term program in the summer, a whole semester, or an entire year. 

"[Studying abroad] challenges you to step outside of your comfort zone and expand your worldview by submersing yourself in a new culture," she said. "You become more open-minded, as you learn that what is familiar isn't always what is better.

"When you travel, everything doesn't always go exactly as planned, and those obstacles force you to act independently and learn to creatively problem solve.  I can't say enough about this experience and how grateful I am for all the places I've seen and people I have encountered.  I have learned an incredible amount about myself, about others, and about the world we all live in."

Shea will be returning to Emmanuel in the spring, and is anticipating a busy semester.  In addition to her coursework, she will be starting an internship and returning to the various clubs in which she is involved. After that? Well, it's anyone's guess. 

"There will certainly be much more traveling in my future, though I don't quite know where the next adventure will be just yet!"