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Jays Abroad Blog

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Welcome to the Jays Abroad Blog! Here you'll find a diverse collection of articles covering the international experiences of Creighton study abroad students past and present, tips and tricks, and information about programs.

This blog is maintained by the Creighton Study Abroad team. Articles are written by staff, GEO Peer Ambassadors, and study abroad alumni. To learn more about Creighton Study Abroad, visit creighton.edu/geo/studyabroad

Do you want to contribute a blog post? Email studyabroadadvisor@creighton.edu 

Spring 2023

Are you a CCAS student interested in Spanish? A semester in the Galápagos may be the place for you!

Imagine: you’re a College of Arts and Sciences student scrolling the Jays Abroad Portal. You may be wondering where you’d like to go that would fulfill your degree requirements. Then, you stumble across the semester-long Creighton in the Galápagos program. What would that program look like though…we interviewed with student, Julian Garcia to find out.

Julian is a junior at Creighton studying Biology on the Pre-Med track with minors in both Environmental Sciences and Music. Julian knew he wanted to go to the Galápagos since high school due to an influential teacher of his that ran a two-week program there. However, Julian was unable to go due to COVID-19. At the time Julian started college, he viewed going to the Galápagos as a separate experience from studying abroad until a few of his friends considered going abroad. He then decided to go to the Jays Abroad Portal and found the semester in the Galápagos program…after that the rest is history.

We began by talking about how the program’s courses and course structure compared to a traditional semester at Creighton.

“A lot of my classes were focused on Biology – there are different academic tracks, but mine was focused on Ecology, Evolution and Conservation. The courses I took showed how Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation are linked and how everything in the environment affects each other. A lot of my coursework was hands on in the field, observing and making sense of ecological mechanisms. My classes were in modules, and every three weeks was its own class. It was a lot more field work than I’ve ever experienced, but also a good mix of lecture and coursework.”

For students looking for a different track. There are three other program focuses:

  1. Marine Ecology
  2. People, Politics, and the Environment
  3. Sustainable Tourism Track

These are all available on the Jays Abroad Portal under the Creighton in the Galapagos page! In this program, you will study a semester through the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ)!

Can you tell me how these courses fit into your four-year plan?

“These courses aren’t Pre-Med requirements, but they are still science, so they will be recognized by most all med schools. I did take a few summer and winter classes so I was able to do a full semester of biology while abroad. Because I took physics over the summer, I was able to go abroad junior year first semester – I recommend doing that if possible. When I was making my four-year plan as a sophomore, there were many biology classes I wanted to take. This program gave me my ecological biology fix, as well as completing many of my major requirements, and I am more than happy that I had that experience. Now I can get back to focusing on Pre-Med.”

While on this program students live in both Ecuador and the Galapagos. You also live with a host family to help integrate into the culture and better learn the Spanish language. Julian gave insight into his experiences with living with a host family.

“I had two host families – one in Ecuador and the other in the Galapagos. I was on mainland Ecuador for 7 weeks. There, my host mom spoke no English, so I had to learn Spanish to communicate with her. At first, I used a lot of Google translate, but I quickly picked it up. It was seeing a different way of life – going to the grocery store, seeing the family dynamic. I’m Hispanic so I grew up with a bit of experience with that dynamic, but it was still interesting to have those experiences with a different family, especially in a foreign language and country.

In the Galapagos I had a different host family. They had a three-year-old child and lived with more family members which was cool. They offered me lunch even though they weren’t required to, and my host dad spoke quite a bit of English. My host dad would practice his English and then I would respond in Spanish. It was such a great way to work on improving both our language skills!”

For Julian, this experience changed him in a few ways:

“It allowed me to walk downtown and notice more bird species than I ever would’ve before, and I could take note of different plant species that I see. I felt moved from the experience because it was so meaningful, and I want to see if I can combine what I learned with my Pre-Med track. I am noticing that ecology is a system which is similar to how the human body is a system, as well as society. It serves as an analogy and allows me to connect things in a way I wasn’t able to before. Another thing we looked at is how people impact the environment, hence it was another way to stay conscious as to how individuals make an impact in different ways.”

I asked for any advice he would give to students considering the program:

“Really soak in the moment. It goes by fast…really appreciate the moment, especially with how the classes are structured. You only have three weeks in each class. For example, the first theory class was to observe, so we went to see the main tropical environments and ecosystems. We went to the Amazon Basin for a week (take advantage of the time there). There was an early morning hike and at the time I was really tired and wanted the extra sleep, so I didn’t go but looking back, I wish I would’ve done it.”

Any closing thoughts?

“I really liked all the hikes and the different ecosystems, and I especially liked getting to know the people in my program. You see them every day for four months. We were a tight group and its awesome knowing people from all over the country and the world. Honestly, I consider the people the best. I learned so much from the people there.” 

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julian garcia

Fall 2022

Here is an excerpt from my interview with Chantal Portes. 

Can you introduce yourself? Tell us where you’re from and what you’re studying. 

My name is Chantal Portes and I’m from the Dominican Republic. I'm a senior majoring in Environmental Science.

What inspired you to study abroad?

Well, I just wanted to experience other cultures because I know sustainability is different in every country. At first I looked at Sweden, but because of COVID-19, I ended up going to Scotland. I really wanted to immerse myself in another culture and understand their perspective on sustainability. 

Why did you decide to study abroad when you're already studying abroad as an international student?

That's a good question. I always wanted to travel and I love meeting new people. I love getting to know new places. 

So a lot of international students don't think that they can study abroad because they're already abroad. What was the process like for you getting ready to study abroad? 

Oh, it was very easy. The advisors in the GEO are really helpful as well as the peer advisors. They help you through the whole process and it was really easy. I didn't have to do a lot of work other than the visa application, which was a little bit stressful. I let Lucy Hancock, the International Student Services Coordinator, know that I was going abroad, but the Study Abroad Advisor helped me with everything. 

How did you decide to go to Scotland? 

Like I said, I was going to Sweden but then it got canceled. But my advisor Kelly told me there was another really cool sustainability program at the Dumfries campus of the University of Glasgow, Scotland which is another city, an hour from Glasgow.

Were you worried or nervous about anything before going abroad?  

I was not! I was ready. I was so ready. Well, at first when I was on my way to Dumfries for the first time, my flight was to Glasgow and then I needed to take a taxi from the airport then a bus to Dumfries and then another taxi to the residence halls and I was nervous. I didn't have a phone number. I didn't have Wi-Fi. So I was really nervous. But when I got to the airport, everyone was so helpful. I just asked people like, hey can I make a call? Can I call a taxi or something? And they were really helpful. Scottish people are the most friendly people I've ever met in my life. They are amazing! 

Can you tell me a favorite story or highlight from the semester? 

Oh my god. Okay, I have so many! So okay, I'll never forget this. The first night I got to the resident hall. I met all my flatmates and then I went to my room and I was like oh my gosh, I'm by myself, like that's when everything hit me like, I'm in another country by myself. I don't have any friends, I don't know anyone, this is really scary and I don't know what to do. And I was like, okay just go to class tomorrow and try to walk around and breathe and relax. And then that same day, two people from the residence hall knocked on my door and they were like, hey, do you want to go out with us? The whole residence hall is going to play pool and we wanted to invite you. They just knocked on my door, they didn't even know me and they were like yeah come with us. And so I went with like 20 people to go play pool, and that's how I met everyone. After that, I just clicked with the whole group and that’s how I made my friends. It was like right away. It took me one day. 

Was there anything that you struggled with during your time abroad?

Just not understanding the Scottish accent sometimes. Especially professors or local people. For example, I used to take taxis to different places around the area and I couldn't understand what they were saying. I felt so bad because I was like I want to talk to you but I don't know what you are saying.

Could they understand you? 

Yes. And also what was really funny is that they referred to me as the American. And I was like I'm not American! I'm from the Dominican Republic and I'm studying abroad in the United States! And they’d just go, she's from Nebraska! Yeah, they didn't think of me as Dominican because I had the American accent and vocabulary. For many people, I was the first person they had met and talked to who had an American accent and vocabulary- even though I do technically have a Dominican accent.

What advice would you give to any other international students or people who share like the same identities as you who are looking to study abroad? 

Don't worry about the whole process or the application because the GEO will help you through everything. Also, just do it. Studying abroad is such an amazing experience. And even if you're already studying abroad, going somewhere else can help you grow even more and open your mind to experience new cultures. That's the best. At first, when I was going to Scotland. I was like, I'm gonna miss out on everything at Creighton, like all the games and all my friends and at first I was so worried about it - but I don't regret going to Scotland. It was the best thing I've ever done. 

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Chantal Portes - Scotland

2021

On August 28, 2019, I set out on the journey of a lifetime — a year abroad in Bologna, Italy.

I didn’t know what exactly was going to happen the moment I stepped out of that plane, but what I did know was that I chose a program that incorporated both my love for social justice and the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture more than ever before.

The streets of Bologna, marked with elaborate graffiti and the tip tapping of every street walker, are few of the wonderful aspects that draw one’s heart to the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Its portico-lined streets and red-tinted architecture create an atmosphere for students that make you feel at home. Creighton in Italy - Bologna, Fall 2019 alumna Stella Michalowski recalls:

"Compared to other places in Italy, like Rome and Florence, Bologna was a hidden gem. There were little to no tourists which made the town seem so wholesome and real. Bologna is Italy’s best kept secret! The town has so much hidden history to it. It was such an authentic, life changing experience overall."

Everyday, students who study at the Spring Hill College Italy Center get to experience the beauty of Bologna as they walk to campus, grabbing a cappuccino and crostini or croissant along the way. The Italian professors guiding each class recount their own lived experiences and perspectives, allowing for immersive and well-rounded courses that truly open your eyes and mind to the ever changing world around us. Outside of classes, the city of Bologna offers so many opportunities to attend live concerts, film streaming events, art museums, markets, and local shop pop-ups. Even more so, Bologna is the best place to get lost.

In the Spring 2020 semester, Creighton in Italy - Bologna alumna Emma Slattery remembers:

"My favorite part about studying in Bologna was being able to wander the city with my free time and immerse myself in the culture…"

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Emma Slattery