Lucille Maria Laubenstein

CIEE Liberal Arts Valparaiso Chile
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Lucille Maria Laubenstein

Liberal Arts Majors: Global and International Studies, International Relations, and Spanish
Minor: Arabic
Hometown: University Park, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about this program through doing some research on the Penn State Global Program search page. I knew I wanted to do a study abroad utilizing my Spanish languages skills, but not the stereotypical abroad trip to Spain. From there my choices were narrowed down by the type of study abroad offered in those countries, and the safety of those countries. Initially I hadn't chosen this to be my program because the picture on the program search page is awful, but it made my list of my top ten choices I was going to do further research on outside of Penn States resources. Once I gave Valparaiso a Google search, I immediately fell in love. This charming and albeit, quirky city has so much to offer. I talked to the study abroad adviser for this program, Sarah Spiegel about it and she tried to put me in contact with a Penn State student who had done this program previously, but there weren't any. So, I went with my gut and committed regardless.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience has been a roller coaster. I know that is what everyone says, but it is honestly the best way to describe it. Much like being on a roller coaster, being completely immersed in a foreign culture is both an exhilarating and paralyzing experience. When I first arrived I felt like Alice in Wonderland, everything felt strange and wonderful yet there were bits and pieces of things that were oddly familiar. Despite having studied Spanish for 5 years, I still found myself acting like a deer in the headlights. The most frustrating part was that my personality didn’t translate, and I had a difficult time expressing myself because I was exhausted and overwhelmed. After about a month, I finally found a way to be myself in Spanish. From then on, I began to enjoy things much more thoroughly. Valparaiso has so much to feast your eyes on. Though I have been here 5 months, I feel I have barely scraped the surface of all this city has to offer. The opportunities to explore and engage in Chilean culture are virtually endless.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I am a Spanish major, and I always intended on studying abroad for a semester because it seemed like the right thing to do. What I did not realize was how completely different being immersed in a culture would be from learning and speaking Spanish in a classroom. I’ve always done very well in my Spanish classes, so I thought that the confidence I gained would translate easily. But the transition was more difficult than I anticipated. However, being in a study abroad language immersion program meant that I didn’t have a safety net, and I had to learn. It has forced me far beyond comfort zone. I am an introverted person, which added another level of complication to communicating in Spanish. When you put yourself into a foreign culture, learning to communicate with people in their language, helps you avoid feeling isolated. As a result, my confidence in myself, my Spanish speaking abilities, and in turn my comprehension skills have improved enormously.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

While I do not know exactly what career I want to pursue, I would like to work for an environmental NGO where ideally I could utilize my language skills. Being abroad has really made me look at my life and my goals and evaluate my priorities. It has also given me an idea of the steps I should be taking once I am back in the states to realize those goals. Previously, I thought that I had a well informed, open minded perspective about a lot of issues, both domestic and international, which are important to me. Having classes in a foreign country, taught from a foreign perspective has made me realize how small my mindset has been, and that life is infinitely complex and ever changing, and there is always more learning to be done.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend this program to another Liberal Arts student. Chile is a beautiful and diverse country with a rich and complex history. There is so much to see and do here, I have never been at a loss for opportunities. Additionally, I feel like this program has led to a tremendous amount of personal growth. I find myself asking new questions, and seeking out information on all sorts of topics which would never have occurred to me before. Also, there is something to be said about being on your own on another continent which means you are constantly surprising yourself with your ability to handle new situations. This program gives you the tools to explore and encourages academic and other forms of personal growth.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program has uniquely shaped my study abroad experience. Namely, it enabled it to happen. Without the resources and support of the Paterno Fellows Program, I would have never considered going abroad in my sophomore year of college, nor would I have considered doing a program that was an entire semester long. I thought these things were out of reach for me academically and financially. But my advisers helped me with scheduling classes, both while at Penn State, and via email when all of my plans fell apart once I was actually here in Chile. The Paterno Fellows Program also provided me with funding which allowed me to participate in this wonderful study abroad experience. The program has been an excellent resource throughout the whole process.

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