Study Abroad Spotlight: Makena Sage

Makena at Iguazu Falls in Argentina. (Makena Sage)
Makena at Iguazu Falls in Argentina. (Makena Sage)

Class of 2012

University: Universidad del Belgrano

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Partner: Academic Programs International (API)

Semester Abroad: Fall 2010 (with early start)

Duration: 5 months

Reason for going:

Traveling is a huge passion of mine, so I always sort of knew that I wanted to study abroad. Since I’m a double-concentration in Marketing and Spanish (International Business major), I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, and because I spent a lot of my childhood in Europe, I decided to explore a totally new part of the world and go to Latin America. I chose Argentina because of the rich culture and history, and because I’d heard so many amazing things about Buenos Aires. Beyond that, I had many goals/hopes for my study abroad experience, including (but definitely not limited to):

•  Become fluent in spoken and written Spanish

•  Learn to tango

•  Complete a 3-month internship

•  Travel all over the country

•  Make new and lasting friendships

I’m so grateful to have accomplished all of these things, and to have had countless other incredible experiences I never could have dreamed of prior to studying abroad.

Best experience/memory:

It’s impossible to choose just one! I loved traveling all around Argentina. Few people realize how large Argentina is (about 1/3 the size of the U.S.). The terrain ranges from glaciers to rainforests to deserts, and just about everything in between. I was fortunate enough to be a Gilman Scholarship recipient, so I was able to travel a lot more than I ever could have otherwise, and see much of what the country has to offer.

Some of the trips I took included:

•  Iguazu Falls (like Niagara, only so much bigger and more beautiful!)

 Salta (the desert part of the country in the north)

•  Colonia (a quaint, historical town just across the Mar del Plata in Uruguay)

•  Córdoba  and Villa General Belgrano (a smaller city much like Buenos Aires and the nearby town that hosts the annual Oktoberfest)

•  Ushuaia (the southernmost city in the world, just 1200 kilometers from Antarctica. Tons of penguins and sea lions!)

•  San Carlos de Bariloche (a famous ski town on a huge lake in Patagonia)

And many more!

Funny cultural experience:

The first one that comes to mind was when I went to my host cousin’s college graduation. In Argentina it’s a tradition for the entire family and close friends to go with the person when they find out their final grade, which determines whether they are eligible to graduate or not. After that, everyone takes the new graduate outside and proceeds to throw eggs and flour at her, and pour every sort of food/drink/condiment imaginable on her! It is completely hilarious to watch and take part in, but it also made me really glad that we don’t have that tradition in the U.S.

How was the school different from Bryant University?

Well for starters, all of my classes were in Spanish. The school was also in a high-rise in the middle of the city, in contrast to the sprawled-out rural Bryant campus.  I think that’s one of the best things about study abroad though, the chance to experience something completely different from your “normal” school/home experience. I really enjoyed taking classes at the Universidad del Belgrano, but there were also plenty of things I missed about Bryant that I appreciate more now that I’m back.

How did this experience change you?

It would be impossible to articulate all the ways studying abroad changed me in just a few words (in fact, I’m probably not even aware of many of the ways I’ve changed!).  That being said, I think the broadening of my horizons/perspective shift I experienced is the change I’ve been most conscious of. The mixture of seeing a completely new part of the world and immersing myself in the culture/history/politics/language, and meeting people from all over with fascinating stories – some traveling around the world “just because,” others working remotely so they could live anywhere – was very eye-opening. I was reminded of how big the world really is, but at the same time, how where you go and what you do is really only limited to what you can imagine and set your mind to.

Would you study abroad again given the opportunity?

In a heartbeat. I actually hope to move to Europe to work after I graduate, and even if that doesn’t work out, I will definitely be traveling as much as I possibly can. I see travel as a way of life, and I don’t think that will be changing anytime soon.