WHOA – Lucia Ortiz

January 24, 2020

Portrait of a person

Studying abroad had been a dream of mine since my first year. I didn’t know how I was going to do it or when I was going to do it but I was determined to make it work. Throughout my undergraduate career, I always made excuses for why it wasn’t a good time to apply, either because of my two jobs or because of money or my other responsibilities. I kept putting off my search for studying abroad until winter 2019 of my junior year when I decided to study abroad the following summer in Brazil through UCEAP’s Brazilian Seminars program.

As a student from a first-generation, low-income single-parent household, I’ve faced multiple obstacles throughout my college career. Because of this I continuously doubted myself that things wouldn’t work out for me. With the support of my study abroad advisor, Ashley, I pushed myself to complete my application and meet the deadlines. She informed me about several scholarships and encouraged me to apply, but again, I doubted myself and didn’t feel like I was capable of being awarded anything. I kept reminding myself time and time again that I had nothing to lose and I could find help for my expenses. After submitting four different scholarship applications, I was awarded three: the Gilman Scholarship, the Promise Award, and the Foreign Language Education Abroad Fund. I was in shock and I was excited that I was that much closer to going to Brazil. I was proud of myself for pushing my doubts aside and thankful that others believed in me and that I was capable of achieving this.

Once it was time for me to depart, I was extremely nervous and excited. I was excited to be going to a new country but nervous because it was the first time traveling internationally by myself to a place where I knew no one. When I arrived, I was greeted by wonderful, welcoming people. My host made me feel at home and our program staff made us feel like a family. Studying abroad in Brazil was an experience I will never forget. I made new friends from other countries and I connected with many others. I enjoyed learning about Brazilian culture, politics and everyday life in the classroom and also learning while immersed in the city and seeing and experiencing everything firsthand.

I gained a lot of knowledge by interacting with people from different backgrounds as me and I became more open-minded to learning and trying new things. Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I’ve made throughout my undergraduate career because I came back with new friendships, perspectives, knowledge, and passion for learning and getting outside of my comfort zone. My experiences of applying to study abroad and being abroad exposed me to new ways of thinking and motivates me to travel abroad again soon.