Travel Isn't Always Pretty
By Emily Wheeler, first generation college student and Study Abroad CoordinatorAug 29, 2022
Every step you take….every experience you have…..every dream you chase….. builds your character and career.
Take your next steps and stop by LynxConnect to learn about career planning, interviewing, performing undergraduate research, and even study abroad.
Don't miss out, the Study Abroad Fair is September 7th in the Tivoli Turnhalle!
Here is Emily Wheeler’s story.
When I was little, I went to Mexico with my parents. I can only assume this is how I became interested in the Spanish language, as I started taking Spanish classes the moment they became available to me in 5th grade. In high school, my Spanish class had the option of traveling to Peru. I remember eagerly presenting my parents with the flyer and being met with an immediate “we can’t afford this.” I was quite devastated, but I understood my family’s financial situation, so I let it go.
As an only child and a first-generation college student, I didn’t have much preparation when I came to college. I chose a State University as it was only three hours away from home and several people I knew from high school were also attending. I struggled through my first semester and wasn’t sure that I made the right choice. One day, I was walking through the student union, and I stumbled upon a study abroad fair that was in full swing. There was a table advertising Spanish immersion programs and I went over to check it out. When they told me about a semester in Costa Rica that was the same price as my semester at college, I was ecstatic. Within a few days, I spoke with my parents, spoke with my university’s study abroad office, and had applied for the program.
Beyond Four Walls
I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica. To say that semester changed my life would be an understatement.
Academically, I learned more than I ever could have at my home university. I had been learning Spanish for ten years, but never felt comfortable speaking the language until I was in Costa Rica.
Personally, without sounding too dramatic, I became a completely different person. I became more mature and learned how to problem-solve, be flexible, and be open-minded. I met the most incredible people and opened my eyes to a completely different way of life.
My semester abroad convinced me that I could do more than I ever thought possible; I believe it is the sole reason I was able to earn both my bachelor's and master's degrees.
Breaking Into a Career
My time abroad inspired me to help others have the same experience as I did. I was lucky enough to be both a student staff member and a graduate assistant in my University’s Study Away Programs Office. As I was completing my master’s degree, I knew I wanted to continue working in international education, but I was also eager to move to Denver. When I saw the job opening for my current position pop up at CU Denver, I was shocked because the timing was perfect, and it was my dream role. I’ve now been a Study Abroad Coordinator at CU Denver for three years and have the pleasure of helping students realize that studying abroad is within their reach. I can help you too.
The best thing I have learned from my travels is how to become comfortable being uncomfortable.
As Anthony Bourdain said,
“Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind."
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