Temple students explore identity, culture while abroad

Studying in another country allowed some students to learn about their privilege.


Temple students are choosing to study abroad during college to build their professional experiences and become more culturally conscious. 

Students can travel to Ecuador with Temple’s Latin American Studies Semester Program or study in one of several other countries like Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica through external study abroad programs.

Caroline Muehlbronner, a senior media studies and production and environmental studies major traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica, this summer to complete an internship with the Klein College of Media and Communication Global Opportunities, which provides opportunities in the U.S. and abroad for all students to obtain academic and practical experience. 

Muehlbronner was the only student from Temple among the eight students she traveled with. This allowed her to meet all different kinds of people from the country, as well as work on her Spanish language skills. 

The experience also gave her a new sense of self-awareness regarding her identity, Muehlbronner said.

“Being there made me feel much more aware of my body in space and my privileges [as a white American],” she said. “There’s a fine line between wanting to learn and immerse yourself in the culture versus pretending you’re a local or someone who actually knows what it’s like to live in Central America.”

The experience abroad also gave her new opportunities when she returned to Temple, Muehlbronner said. She now works as a peer advisor for Klein GO and as an ambassador for global experiences.

While only 49 percent of college graduates find employment within 12 months of graduation, 90 percent of study abroad graduates find employment within six months of earning a degree, regardless of their chosen career field, according to the International Business Seminars. Eighty five percent of students who studied abroad also felt their experiences helped them build valuable skills for the job market, according to a 2012 Recent Graduates Survey by the Institute for the International Education of Students.

Naomi Szanto, a 2019 psychology major and Spanish alumna who traveled to Oviedo, Spain, said she is able to apply experiences from studying abroad to her career today. She is a graduate student at Boston University, where she is studying to become a mental health counselor.

 “A lot of what we talk about in class coincidentally is culture, and I realized that someone can come into my office from a culture that is completely different than what I grew up with,” Szanto said. “I have an advantage when it comes to understanding someone from a different country because I have experienced what it’s like [outside of the U.S.].”

She enjoyed being immersed in Spanish culture, Szanto added.

“Learning different cultures was my biggest takeaway.” Szanto said. “You can read it in a book, you can learn about it in class, but [when] you really experience it is when you get to understand it.”

Skylar Bones, a sophomore criminal justice and Spanish major, studied in Ecuador through LASS in February and March. Bones said the Ecuadorian culture was extremely inviting and friendly. 

“You are passing someone on the street, they say ‘Hi’ to you and you don’t even know the person,” Bones said.

Muehlbronner thought she had made a wrong decision to study abroad at first, but keeping an open mind made it a great experience, she said.

 “If you are interested in doing something don’t let any of your fears prohibit your experience,” Muehlbronner added. 

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