How International Studies Has Impacted Me As A Woman

Sarah is junior at Boise State University double-majoring in Spanish and psychology. She is currently spending a year studying in Montevideo, Uruguay. In honor of National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we spoke to Sarah about how study abroad has impacted her and why international education is important for women around the world.

I am a very ambitious, involved, and spontaneous person. I believe those qualities are the best characteristics a woman can have to fully appreciate her surroundings and take up on opportunities that come her way. I can push myself out of my comfort zone, try new things, and live to enjoy life. Thanks to my parents, I was raised with these qualities and have had the confidence to always believe in myself. International education has furthered my sense of worth and has assisted in my growth as an individual. From being part of a salsa dance team, participating in an internship to teach English, and having the opportunity to model for a Uruguayan hair salon has made all the difference in my personal growth and view of myself as a woman.

One day during my freshman year of college, I woke up and decided that I wanted to learn Spanish. I always wanted to learn another language and I decided that the best way I was going to push myself to learn was adding it as a major. It also gave me the opportunity to take classes in another country which was my ultimate goal. I was always planning to study abroad someday but I never expected that I would be going to Uruguay. After thinking about studying abroad in Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, I chose a country I had never heard of before and knew nothing about. I believe that those moments of throwing yourself in a situation where you cannot predict the outcomes and have no clue what to expect creates the most beautiful and treasured memories. Uruguay has given me more than enough of those memories. I knew that going to a foreign country 6,447 miles away from my family and friends for a year would be difficult, so I started searching for the things I love to make myself comfortable and make Uruguay feel like my second home. A few things I love are dancing, spending time with children, and trying new things.

Sarah poses in front of a monument in Montevideo.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a dancer. I have been dancing since I was 4 years old and was part of a dance team the majority of my life. Dancing gives me the greatest joy. It helps my mind, body, gives me confidence, and a sense of freedom. I knew I wanted to continue dancing while studying abroad and started going to open classes at the dance studio, Montevideo Mambo. After a few weeks of attending classes, my dance instructors Andres and Vanessa invited me to be part of a Salsa dance team and perform with them in December. I took this opportunity even though I never danced salsa before, and learned during my first semester with nine other amazing women. Even with the language barrier, I was able to make a close friendship with the beautiful Annalis. A 71-year-old woman who I had a lot in common with, in regards to a love for dance and trying new things. We practiced every Monday and Wednesday until the show date. Even though I was only on stage for three minutes, the performance was an unforgettable experience. I felt alive and proud to show what I learned. I still dance with Montevideo Mambo and Annalis, saying goodbye to them will be one of the hardest farewells for me in May.

After becoming a part of the salsa dance team I wanted to be involved in more. Anything that was going to help me improve my Spanish and challenge me. I asked my advisor, Orlando, if there were any volunteer opportunities available for me and mentioned that I preferred to do something with children. Orlando found me the children’s school, Unidos, and got me set up as a volunteer there to help assist the students. I instantly fell in love with the students and staff and asked if I could possibly do an internship there for my second semester. They said yes and now I have my own class teaching English on Thursday mornings. This opportunity means the world to me because it is exactly what I want to do in my future. After I get my bachelors degree in Spanish and Psychology, I am going to apply for the Peace Corps. I have wanted to do this my whole life and have dreamed of having an English teaching position for children. Teaching a class at Unidos gives me the practice and experience that I need.

Sarah attends a soccer match in Montevideo.

I believe that a woman should always feel beautiful about her mind and body, because those characteristics are what makes her unique. When I was young, a boy told me that I could never be a model because of my freckles. Luckily for me, my parents raised me to not only have confidence in my skills but also in my appearance. They called my freckles angel kisses growing up and raised me to admire them. Today my freckles are my favorite thing about myself. My Uruguayan friend, Sofi, sent me a modeling application for a hair salon here in Uruguay. After applying, the company selected me and asked what cut and color I would like for my hair. All I could think about while modeling for this hair company was how wrong that boy was to say a quality about myself would limit my opportunities or make me less beautiful. I felt gorgeous as myself, freckles and all.

Choosing to study abroad in Uruguay was the best decision of my life thus far. I have learned so much about myself and feel strong and beautiful as a woman. Studying abroad has shown me what I am capable of, has challenged me, expanded my confidence, pushed me out of my comfort zone, but most of all it has made me feel beautiful for the woman I am.

Want to hear more from the woman of USAC? Check out these posts from past International Women’s Day contributors.