Studying Abroad as a Hispanic Student
“I think there’s a misconception that studying abroad is only for financially well-off students, when it doesn’t have to be..."
Carla Garcia is a senior at Virginia Tech, majoring in marketing with a minor in international business. Originally, she thought studying abroad was not an option, and part of that hesitation was missing her friends and family.
As the middle child of a mother from El Salvador and a father from Mexico, Carla comes from a tight-knit family. “I’ve always been super close with my family. The idea of going to another country without them was very scary for me. And for them.”
Carla explained that cultural norms may be a barrier preventing more Latin(o/a/x) and Hispanic students from studying abroad. “Hispanic families tend to be very close-knit, open, and protective making the idea of a child or sibling living alone in a completely new, unfamiliar country very difficult. This was definitely the case for my family,” she said.
Carla studied abroad for a semester in Spain with International Education for Students (IES), a third-party program. While in Barcelona, she lived with a host family and took classes focused on the international perspectives of finance, marketing, and business. She says being away from her family during her semester was challenging at first, but the benefits will last a lifetime.
“It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was a great opportunity for me to learn and grow on my own. I discovered new passions for language, culture, politics, global affairs, travel, and food. And in job interviews, I can talk about the applicable career skills I developed including adaptability, problem solving, and much more,” Carla said.
Now that she’s returned from Spain, Carla’s excited to see the change in her parents. “It’s really cool to see my parents grow, too. I have a younger brother, and I think they’re going to encourage him to study abroad, whereas with my older sister, they were always scared of the idea.”
Over the summer, Carla interned at the Global Education Office. Much of her time was spent welcoming new Hokies during Orientation. She hopes to see more diversity in the pool of students who study abroad.
“I think there’s a misconception that studying abroad is only for financially well-off students, when it doesn’t have to be. More study abroad alumni like myself can show others that its an option for anyone,” Carla said. “And if you don’t have the means to study abroad, be open-minded. There are so many programs that can offer the right fit and ways to obtain funding.”
In the future, Carla would love to connect with her culture further by traveling to Central and Latin America.