Rachel Vandegrift

When and where did you study away?

I studied away twice – I studied Communities & Organizations in New York City in Summer 2017 and then I did the Global Internship Program in Barcelona, Spain for Summer 2018.

What was your program like?

My experience in New York was not your average study away program. I spent every Saturday in the city, exploring different neighborhoods and studying cultural landmarks.

For the Global Internship Program, I spent two weeks preparing to go abroad in our Intercultural Communication in the Workplace course. I loved the class because I was able to meet fellow interns who were having the same feelings of excitement and nerves that I was! Once in Barcelona, I interned for 8 weeks with Pat  Nuñez Agency, a consultant group that specializes in communication strategies for artists, designers, and architects in Catalonia. 

Interning abroad was the right decision for me because I wasn’t stuck in a classroom while abroad. I got an immersive look at the Spanish culture in the workplace, and I had plenty of free time outside of my internship to explore the city! My favorite thing to do after work was leisurely walk home, exploring new routes and neighborhoods.

Has studying abroad helped you in your professional life? Your personal life?

Absolutely! Professionally, I was able to learn more about what career path I wanted to pursue. Honestly, I was never sure of what I wanted to do with my Communication Studies major. Interning abroad allowed me to expand my view of the media and communications field and realize that the skills I learned in my major are more valuable to any industry or career path. With that knowledge, I was able to return to the states with more passion for my future career path.

On a personal level, studying and living abroad was something I dreamed of for years. Fulfilling that goal was a huge personal accomplishment. I made great friends and I was immersed in a culture that I had admired from years of studying the Spanish language and culture. Being immersed in a new culture brings great challenges and amazing rewards every day. I emerged from the experience more confident, knowledgeable, and secure in myself.

Are there lessons you would consider to be invaluable from your experience?

Studying away taught me to get out of my comfort zone more than any other life experience I’ve had. Moving to a new city or country forces you to leave your “normal” life behind. Once you’re stripped of your normal comforts and surroundings of home, you re forced to face your “true” self head-on. It can be difficult when culture shock comes into play, but the personal development that comes with it is so worth it.

How has your experience guided your career path?

Interning in Barcelona actually helped me decide to change career paths entirely! As a Communication Studies and Spanish double-major, doing a communications and marketing internship in Spain was a great fit for my goals at that time. As I returned from my internship and entered my last semester at Temple, I realized I wanted to work with students and help them have their own transformative experience outside of Philadelphia! Luckily, through that realization and my work as a Peer Advisor and Program Assistant at the Klein GO Office, I was able to launch my current work path working the study abroad field.

Where are you now? What do you do?

Now, I’m an Admissions Counselor for Global Experiences, the internship provider that Klein GO partners with for Barcelona. In my role, I advise and guide students interested in interning abroad like I did.

I absolutely love working in this field. Without studying away, I would never have found this passion!

How do you feel studying away helped you get there (if at all)?

Studying away 100% got me to where I am today.

I loved my experience studying away, not only because I got credit for my major and had a great time, but because I also found a passion for working with students to help them achieve their own unique experience. 

I am blessed to work with a team of people who have all lived or worked internationally. Having a team of like-minded people with their own unique experiences abroad makes each day exciting! 

Advice to current students studying away and/or prospective students considering doing so?

Everyone says this, but seriously : just do it! I know there are plenty of obstacles out there that make it seem like studying abroad isn’t possible for you. 

Travelers come in all shapes and sizes. Chances are, you already know someone who’s studied abroad. My best advice is to connect with program alumni who have a similar background to you– whether that’s ethnic, financial, educational, or otherwise. Talk to them, get inspired by their experiences, learn from their challenges, and embark on your own experience. 

Anything else you would like to add?

Last thing — apply to as many scholarships as you possibly can. There’s free money out there, I promise!