Anna had never been on an airplane when she decided to study abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica for an academic year. Twenty years have passed since Anna studied abroad, and she’s now the owner of Be The Good Consulting, LLC, a marketing, public relations, and fundraising firm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A University of Iowa graduate, Anna recently spoke with the International Programs team at the University of Iowa about how her study abroad experience with USAC has shaped her career. The original interview appeared on the University of Iowa website and we’ve shared it below.
How did you decide to study abroad in Costa Rica?
I studied abroad because I had a strong desire to learn about another culture. I was definitely scared at first. I didn’t know exactly how it was going to work, and I had never been on a plane before in my life. But the second I stepped off the plane and onto the ground in Costa Rica, I knew I had made the right decision. That year was by far the most valuable year in my academic career. The USAC program in Heredia, Costa Rica, was particularly appealing because it helped me complete requirements for my Spanish major and also offered me the opportunity to live with a host family—lovely people with whom I am still in touch today!
What did you gain as a result of studying abroad?
Study abroad made me who I am today. When it came to starting my career, study abroad was hugely beneficial. I landed my first job in large part because of the Spanish language proficiency I gained. As I’ve continued my career and now own a business, I value the larger worldview I got from study abroad. I gained a global perspective, something that has been infinitely valuable to me in the business world. I also learned to be flexible in viewing the world through the lens of other people and their perspectives. Throughout my career, this has been a wonderful addition to my skill-set.
What are some of your favorite memories from your study abroad experience?
There are so many! Having grown up in Iowa and not traveled much outside of the Midwest before going to Costa Rica, every day was a new adventure. I loved being able to experience the majesty of an active volcano, swim at the base of a waterfall, hike to the top of a “hill” in the rain forest to a vista of two oceans, riding in a boat along the Nicaraguan border with all sorts of tropical creatures everywhere and put my feet in the ocean for the first time. I also was able to travel throughout Central America during my stay and had the opportunity to visit the Panama Canal and Mayan ruins in Guatemala. The opportunity to experience nature and culture was amazing, but the lifelong friendships and second family gained from the year “outside my comfort zone” was what I value most from my year abroad…that and my host mom’s tres leches cake!
What advice do you have for current UI students considering study abroad?
The greatest benefit to studying abroad is that it helps you to develop a strong worldview—which can be immensely valuable to you as you begin your career. Once you start your study abroad program, let go of how you think things are supposed to be in your worldview lens. Be open to absorbing the culture of the land that you are traveling to. The purpose of study abroad is to engulf yourself in another culture – be open to this life experience! If you are thinking about studying abroad, rip off that band-aid and do it! You will never regret it, and it will be one of the best experiences of your life.