Yoli Gavaldon is an alumna of GGHS (class of 2012) and currently a third-year student at UCSB. She majors in languages, and aspires to become a high school language teacher. This year, Yoli was offered an opportunity to study abroad in Italy. Here are a few things Yoli wants to share about her journey thus far:
- What school are you going to currently?
I am a third-year student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but I am currently attending the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy. Fun fact: It’s the oldest university in the world!
- What motivated you to go study abroad?
There were several things that motivated me to study abroad. I’ve always wanted to travel, for as long as I can remember. In college, I started taking Italian language courses for fun, and I also lived in an international residence hall during my first two years of college. Being surrounded by so many amazing, interesting international students and practicing Italian every day made me want to study abroad and learn more about the world. I figured that I would never have this opportunity again where I could just go to a new country to live and learn there for an entire year. Not only that, but I am also an Italian Studies and Spanish double-major; I’m working towards becoming a high school languages teacher. My hope is that someday I’ll be able to inspire in my students a greater awareness and appreciation for knowledge, for people different from themselves, and for travel by bringing the Spanish and Italian languages and cultures to life in the classroom. I figured I couldn’t do that very well if I had never seen and experienced these cultures myself.
- How did you hear about the program?
I first heard about the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) from my RA at my residence hall. She was planning to study abroad in Rome and Paris and was a strong advocate for studying abroad. She even had the EAP office come in and do a presentation about studying abroad at my residence hall. I later heard about the program again in one of my Italian classes; my university really encourages studying abroad!
- How much is the abroad tuition?
Study abroad costs vary depending on where in the world you decide to go. The Italy program was, unfortunately, one of the more expensive countries when compared to other available programs. My tuition is still the same; I pay the UC tuition cost, which is $13,300. (My Italian friends have told me, however, that they only pay about 2,000 euros a year for tuition at my university. That’s approximately $2,300 for a whole year at a prestigious university!) The overall program cost begins to rise when you include other program and UCEAP fees. My total program cost was estimated at $29,000. This includes tuition, as well as estimates for housing, food, books, etc.
- Is there any scholarship for the program?
Yes, of course there are scholarships for the program! I would not have been able to study abroad without the help of scholarships and grants. There are several scholarships available, and the EAP office at your UC campus will let you know about them as they come up. One day I opened my email and was pleasantly surprised to find that I had been awarded $2,500 from an Italian heritage organization because I received A’s in all of the Italian language classes at UCSB. I didn’t even know that was a possibility! I then applied for another $2,000 scholarship from the UCEAP office and was awarded that one, too. Do not let the study abroad costs scare you. There are many ways to pay for your trip.
- How did you adapt yourself to the new environment?
Adapting been difficult at times, but it has also been a lot of fun. I chose to study abroad because I wanted to learn from other people and cultures, and I think that what really has helped me adapt to my new environment has been keeping an open mind that is willing to see and understand another person’s way of life and point of view. I try my best to embrace the everyday language, culture, and customs of my fellow Bologneses; whatever they do, I do and whatever I do not understand, I ask for clarification. I’ve noticed that people really appreciate when you try to learn from them and when you are respectful and embracing of their ways. I have made really amazing friends who have helped me ease into Bolognese culture, and our UC study center has an amazing staff that has helped me feel welcomed and supported every step of the way.
- What were you struggling with and how did you face it?
I cannot emphasize enough how much I have been struggling with my Italian! I went from conjugating verbs at UCSB to studying and analyzing Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in just a matter of months. There are days when I go to class and out of a two hour lecture, I only understand about 40% of the lecture because the professor is speaking so fast and I just can’t catch it all. I can’t let myself get discouraged though; I understand that I am learning and that this isn’t supposed to be easy. So I keep reading my books in Italian, I go and have coffee dates called “tandems” with local students where we speak in Italian for 30 minutes and in English for 30 minutes, and I practice wherever I go. I’ve also struggled with homesickness, but Skyping with my family a few times a week definitely helps. I just have to remind myself that this is all temporary and I try to make the most of my present.
- What are your plans for the future?
My program ends in May and I think I’m going to remain in Italy until August. Until then, I’m going to continue working at a local high school where I am an intern Teacher Assistant and I’m going to take several more courses at my university. I also plan to do some traveling on the weekends and once classes are over; I still haven’t seen many of the countries I want to visit before heading back to the USA. I am also currently applying to become a Resident Director for next year at the residence hall where I worked as a Resident Assistant. In addition, I have started looking into grad schools for after my graduation, which will be here before I even know it. I’m hoping I’ll be accepted into UCSB’s competitive Teacher Education Program, a program that would allow me to get my Master’s Degree and my teaching credentials in just a year and a half. Regardless of what the future has in store for me, all I can really hope for is that I’ll have the opportunity to inspire other students, either in my residence hall or in my future classroom, to further their education as much as they can and also to just go and learn and discover as much of the world as possible. It’s a truly amazing place.