Alumni Q&A: Belen – Bengaluru, India

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Name: Belen Figueroa-Cazares

Program Location and Year: Bangalore, India Fall 2013

What are you doing now?

I am currently a senior at UNR, pursuing a degree in Journalism and International Affairs with an emphasis in East Asian Studies.

What are some of your favorite highlights from your time abroad?

If there’s one thing India loves: it’s celebrating holidays. Some of my favorite memories were from partaking in cultural celebrations such as Ethnic Day and Diwali. One of the highlights of my trip was also playing cards by candlelight with other USAC students when the power would go out for hours at a time

In your experience, what are the major benefits of studying abroad?

I think one of the most unique benefits of studying abroad is the fact that you get to be a student while living in a different country. It completely changes your experience from that of traveling for leisure or otherwise. The opportunity to attend a school abroad with teachers and peers of a different country is priceless.

What did you learn about yourself?

That’s kind of a loaded question. Visiting a developing country definitely changes you. There’s no way around it- India is a devastatingly poor country that that sometimes lacks even the most basic amenities. Being exposed to that has made me more humble, it has made more grateful for what I have, and it has helped me realize exactly how strong I am.

Why did you choose the program that you did?

I chose India because I wanted to challenge myself and test my boundaries. I wanted to push my limits and honestly, I wanted turn my world upside down. Whenever I inquired about India, I was always warned that ‘everything’s backwards from how we do it here,’ and ‘be ready for a culture shock.” My response? Bring it on! I chose India because it was literally the most opposite I felt I could get from the cultures I had grown up with.

How many years did it/will it take you to graduate?

I’ll be graduating Spring 2015 after having spent 5 years at the University of Nevada, Reno. My semester abroad did not set me back (quite the opposite, actually).

What, in your opinion, are the biggest myths students believe about study abroad?

The biggest myth I think students believe about studying abroad is that they have to know/learn a new a language before choosing to go abroad. That, or their only options are to go to English-speaking countries. This is absolutely FALSE. While language capability is definitely a plus, it’s not a requirement, and the USAC programs often offer language classes while abroad.

If/when you study abroad again, where would you like to go? Why?

While I would go back to India in a heartbeat, I’d honestly have to say that recently I’ve been growing more and more interest in Cuba. There’s a certain appeal in its exclusivity that really draws me in.

What would you tell students trying to decide whether or not to study abroad?

This may seem like a blanket statement- but seriously, do it. Just do it. It’s far more likely that you’ll regret your decision to not study abroad than your decision to do it. And I absolutely believe that through the study abroad experience, you can only grow and learn more about yourself.

If you’re convinced that Bangalore, India is for you, then discover more on our Bangalore program page!

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