My name is Rachel Lindhart and I am the new Graduate Assistant in the Office of Study Abroad. I am a first-year student in the College Student Affairs Master’s program at EIU and I am proud to be a newly-converted Panther!
I’m a recent graduate of Central College, a small private liberal arts school in small-town Pella, Iowa, where I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and a minor in biology. I found my way into College Student Affairs and higher education through my position as an overly-enthusiastic, ragingly passionate Resident Advisor on Central’s campus and through time spent abroad my key interest points in Higher Education began to include studying abroad and international education as well. I feel so fortunate I was able to find a position that embodies both my love for student affairs and student development and my enthusiasm for travel and study abroad.
I was fortunate to spend not just one but two semesters abroad during my undergraduate career. The idea of studying abroad had always piqued my curiosity, but it wasn’t something I prioritized as I entered college. As I progressed in my studies, I realized that in order to fulfill the requirements for my Spanish major, I had to spend at least one semester abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. Central College Abroad has programs at seven different sites, two of them being Merida, Mexico and Granada, Spain. While my heart has always yearned to spend time in Spain and explore Europe, I chose to spend the spring semester of my sophomore year of college in Merida, Yucatan in Mexico in an attempt to incorporate both Spanish language and culture studies with courses in tropical ecology to stay on track in both fields of study.
During my semester down south I fell more and more in love with Spanish, Hispanic culture, and traveling and I realized I wanted to somehow incorporate these interests as the focal point of my future career. I continued along with my studies in school and as it came time to plan my last semester I realized I only had a few Spanish courses left to finish up – why not do so in a Spanish-speaking country where I can immerse myself in the culture and learn first-hand from Spaniards themselves!? So, off to Granada, Spain I went!
As hard as I sometimes try (shame on me for that!), it is so impossibly difficult to compare my two semesters abroad. They almost feel like two different lifetimes, two completely unique and unrelated adventures of Raquelita the Spanish Adventurer. However, they did have one thing in common in that each of them was influential in their own way and no doubt changed my life for the better. In Mexico, I interacted with local youth teaching English at an after school program, suffered from chronic sunburn, was adopted into my familia Mexicana, salsa danced the weeks away with my classmates in our little outdoor classroom, and realized my true passions in life. In Spain, I acted on those passions while I made life-long friendships, perfected my Spanish, checked places off of my bucket list I only ever dreamed of one day seeing in real life in a matter of two and a half weeks with one little backpack, made partners in crime out of my two little host brothers, ate one-too-many churros con chocolate, and was reassured that I have found the right field of work for myself – like I have found “me” in job form. Is there anything more rewarding than that?
If I could find a way to be in college forever and spend each semester in a different location, I would, but alas, I cannot so I would consider working in an institutional study abroad office to be the next best thing! I am thrilled to be in a position where I can use my experiences to enlighten college students on the opportunities, feasibility, and importance of studying abroad and inspire them to chase their dreams of spending time overseas and make those fantasies a reality. There is nothing more rewarding to me than engaging with students and empowering them through their strengths in order to find success in themselves, and I’m lucky enough to have a front-row seat on the sidelines where I can be loudly cheering them on the entire way!
If you ever find yourself in Blair Hall, please stop by and introduce yourself! I look forward to meeting each and every one of you. It’s an honor to be apart of EIU’s team.