Two-time Study Abroad Participant Wins Chancellor's Award!
This year's recipients of the State University of New York Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence includes two-time study abroad participant Kimberly Moonan. The prestigious award recognizes students in the graduating class who have demonstrated the highest levels of academic excellence and made significant contributions to campus life at their respective universities.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher also referred to the award as an “honor” for students who “have excelled academically and taken advantage of what SUNY has to offer outside the classroom.” Moonan, who is majoring in Social Welfare with a double minor in Spanish and Psychology, epitomizes those standards within our own University at Albany. The award is a culmination of her commitment to excellence and a tribute to her hard work during her undergraduate experience.
Kimberly Moonan, who will graduate this May and move on to Columbia University to pursue her Masters in Social Work in hopes of becoming a clinician who works with at-risk youth, also studied abroad twice. She went to Santiago, Chile during the 2007/08 wintersession then to Valencia, Spain, during summer 2008. She took some time to answer some questions about her experiences abroad and how they have affected her view of the world. (Also check out some of Kim's pictures of her experiences!)
How did your Study Abroad experiences match up with your academic and career goals?
For me studying abroad was not just a matter of the excitement and fun of traveling, but it was also a means to enrich my education. I am Spanish minor and I never would have been able to truly grasp and understand the language if I did not spend time immersing myself in the culture and life of Spanish speaking cultures. My Spanish-language skills increased drastically as a result.
Both of your study abroad experiences were within the same year and to very different Spanish speaking countries, Chile and Spain. Did you observe any major cultural differences between those countries?
I studied abroad in countries that aren’t just on different continents, but the cities I stayed in were also drastically different. Santiago is an inland city surrounded by mountains that serves as Chile’s capitol and Valencia is a city where beaches and historical buildings coexist. There were also many differences in the language between the two countries. They certainly offered me drastically different experiences, but what is more amazing is what they had in common. Both cities welcomed me into their homes and into their lives. On my journeys I met incredibly generous and kind people who were eager to get to show me their culture and to get to know mine.
How much did your Spanish speaking skills improve from these experiences? And was that one of your goals?
Before studying abroad in Chile I had only completed the SPN 100 and 101 (lower level Spanish courses) and my skills were very elementary. However, 7 months later, after continuing my education at the University and spending 6 weeks in Spain, I was able to have very complex conversations with native speakers. I believe that my time abroad was the main source of the improvement and I never would have been able to make such broad leaps without studying abroad. Spending every day around people who speak Spanish forces you to take in the language and inevitably improves your own skills.
Did you have any experiences while you were abroad that changed the way you view the world?
Studying abroad gives you the opportunity not only to explore other countries, but also to explore yourself. During my experiences abroad I grew as a person and became more independent. I had the opportunity to meet many people, not only from Spain and Chile, but also from all over the world. These people helped to break down the pre-conceived notions about what certain people and places are like and made me realize that we are all amazing and interesting people. The experience of living in a foreign country helped me to gather a deeper understanding of their values, especially the emphasis on enjoying and living life to the fullest.
What other benefits do you feel you gained from studying abroad?
Studying abroad was an amazing experience and I sincerely think that everyone should take the time to study in a foreign country.