Name: Alejandro Quevedo
Hometown: San Salvador, El Salvador.
Study abroad semester and location: Amiens, France for the academic year 2012-’13.
What did you miss most from home/Beloit? Surprisingly, I missed Commons. Just going there and hanging out with all my fellow Beloiters; it’s something to be missed.
What was the biggest difference between Beloit and your host city/university? Similarity? The biggest difference was that my university in Amiens was just a three-story building with no campus at all, but it was literally a few steps away from the biggest cathedral in France. Amiens also had a very busy downtown with lots of stores and several restaurants. As far as similarities, Amiens is also a relatively small city, and all my classes there were about the same size as classes here in Beloit.
What did you bring home as a souvenir? I brought back many great experiences and memories, each one with its own unique story behind it. Physically, I brought back a bottle of champagne.
Did having a background as a minority student provide you with any advantages while you were abroad? If yes, what were they? It worked as a great ice breaker. Being different made most people want to learn more about my background, where I came from, what is it like back at my home, etc. It was a great way to make conversation, and while they learned more about me I also learned about them and my host country and culture.
Why was it important to you, as a minority student, to study abroad? There are so many things you can’t learn or experience from home. I wanted to go discover the world from a new perspective and get a different point of view on how things are done, and there is no better way to do this than by submerging completely in another culture.
At the same time it was also important for me to go abroad because I also wanted to improve my language skills, more specifically, my French.
How will your study abroad experience be beneficial to you in the future? Being in France for a year, I got to improve my French skills to the point that I can now say I’m trilingual. As an economics major and with such a globalized economy, languages might be very useful, since we never know where the next person, with whom we’re going to do business, will be from. I am also prepared to interact with many more different kinds of people, but not only thanks to my language skills, but also thanks to the cultural experiences I had. While abroad, I got to meet people from places all over the world, each wanting to leave a bit of their culture wherever they went. By interacting with this people I developed more my intercultural skills and I learned more about people in other parts of the world. In short, just exploring and learning more about other places opens a lot more doors of possibilities for the future, both in terms of what you can do and places you can go to.
Some words of advice for other minorities who want to study abroad: Go for it! The world is a big and amazing place and there is always something new to explore and discover around every corner. You also get to meet people from many different places and have friends from different countries! Wherever you go there will always be people who are interested in getting to know you better and learning more about where you come from.
I know the idea of going abroad and studying in an unknown environment might be scary sometimes, but don’t be afraid. Once there, just remember to keep an open mind, but always remember who you are and always be yourself. In the end, going abroad is a very rewarding experience that will provide you with experiences and lessons that can’t be learned while being home or in a classroom.