Hayley Sanchez

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My name is Hayley Sanchez, and I am a Film and Digital Media Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies double major. As a first-generation, low-income, Latina person of color, studying abroad was an experience that forever changed my perspective on work possibilities, challenged me to get out of my comfort zone, and exposed me to a different environment than I was used to. Traveling to Argentina in particular, was an experience that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if it wasn’t for the study abroad opportunities at UC Santa Cruz, such as the LALS Global Internship Program. Being in Argentina for two months forced me to adapt to new surroundings, social and cultural environments, and lifestyles. I feel like at the beginning it was definitely difficult and the culture shock still hit even though I am Latina and am fluent in Spanish. As time went by, I learned to mentally and physically adapt and, though challenging, I think this experience was much needed. 

I would say that because of my appearance being brown and with very tight-knit curls, being in Argentina, in particular Buenos Aires, where the majority of people are white-passing with Eurocentric beauty standards, one of the biggest challenges for me was learning how to feel comfortable with my visible difference. Walking around Buenos Aires, I definitely received many stares and questions about where I was from. Looking different than many of the passersby made me feel like an outsider and I think at the beginning it led to me being reserved and protective, but it also encouraged me to learn more about the history of Argentina and how European migration and ethnic cleansing have dramatically changed Argentina’s social demographic and culture to an extent. I would say the other challenge I had was more of a language/cultural understanding as I am fluent in Spanish but am used to speaking and hearing Guatemalan and Salvadoran Spanish, and in both of those cultures, my cultures, we don’t use “voz” we use “tu y usted”. The Argentinian Spanish at the beginning felt drastically different as I did not grow up hearing much of it but over time I learned to understand it and how to use it as well to better communicate with locals and my work colleagues.

The Gilman scholarship was one means that I used to be able to study abroad. The scholarship is funded by the U.S. Department of State. The Gilman Program broadens the student population that studies and interns abroad by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints. To be eligible for the Gilman Program, applicants must be receiving a Federal Pell Grant during the time of application or provide proof that they will be receiving a Pell Grant during the term of their study abroad program or internship. I encourage all students, especially low-income students, to apply to as many scholarships as possible in order to access these life-changing opportunities!

Overall, I would say studying abroad taught me a lot about myself and my capabilities to adapt and learn, as well as many valuable lessons that I now use in my daily and academic life. For example, it opened up the possibilities of studying and possibly working abroad after I graduate. It also taught me valuable communication skills and how to adapt and learn from another language or Spanish dialect to better communicate with the social environment around me, which strengthened my own Spanish and expanded the different dialects I speak. I would say it also strengthened my social, political, historical, and cultural understandings as studying abroad for two months made me aware of broader international issues and to view my own from a different perspective. That awareness and desire to learn more has served as a drive in my LALS courses, my journalistic work, and my creative artistic projects having to do with historical memory and language. The challenges gave me confidence and taught me that I am capable of more than I previously thought since I adapted to a new country amidst the hardships. 

Last modified: Jun 04, 2024