API employees work tirelessly in the U.S. and abroad to serve our participants and ensure they have the best international experience possible. At API, we all share stories of personal transformation by international experience. We remember our first days abroad, our first meals, and our first international flights. We have stories of transformation in common with our API alumni who study, work, intern, and teach abroad all over the world. In our new series, “Why We Do It Wednesday,” we’ll share a glimpse into why API employees love to work at API- through the eyes of our alumni.
“To a potential employer, I would tell them that my study abroad experiences taught me so much about other people. I have never been in a position where I am part of the minority. I came in with a very basic and beginning level of Spanish, so a lot of the time I felt pretty lost. Eventually learning to “go with the flow” and be quick to think on my feet in situations that wouldn’t allow me to do anything else.
One thing this whole experience taught me, is that I am capable of so much more than I think I am. Even before I stepped foot in Chile I was busy working to make it happen. It wasn’t just going to fall into my lap. Hard work and multitasking had to come first. Not only did I have to stay focused on school and taking finals at my home university, but I had to be on top of visa paperwork and final preparations to go abroad. There are so many logistics that need to be worked out, while traveling abroad. Some things you have to just play by ear, like figuring out what bus to take while you’re in the middle of nowhere, Bolivia. Other matters needed to be planned ahead so that you weren’t sleeping on the streets in the Atacama Desert because you didn’t book a hostel in the middle of high season. I learned to take charge in a lot of situations because when traveling with large groups, someone needs to make decisions or nothing will get done.
To my grandmother, I would tell her of all the beautiful and unexpected things I saw. Other cultures aren’t “weird” or “strange” but just different. Many of the things I saw were things I wasn’t used to. I learned that I wasn’t raised the way others were. It became so great to learn to appreciate those differences. We all have something to offer one another and when we break down those walls or reservations that hold us back, we see our commonality of being human as the only thing that matters.
To a peer, I would tell them that going abroad to Chile was the best decision I have ever made. It wasn’t always easy and not everything was fun all the time, but I am so glad it went the way it did. I tried my best to go into this experience with little-to-no expectations. When you come into a situation with a mindset like that, you come to appreciate the little things so much more.
When you think about people traveling they often say they are going to “discover who they really are.” I didn’t want to put that pressure on myself. I only expected myself to learn some Spanish and maybe make some friends. As it turns out though, so much more happened than those low expectations I set for myself. I learned to appreciate everything I have in my life so much more than I had before.
I definitely missed my family, but at the same time, I never wanted to go back home. The longing that I felt to be with the things I missed only gave me a greater appreciation for them. It taught me to enjoy what I had in front of me in that moment because one day (which is today) I would be missing Chile.
As one of my Chilean professors liked to say: I didn’t change as a person – I evolved more into the person I am meant to be. Traveling and having an experience like this can do so much for a person in four short months.”