Putting a Face to a Name: Introducing our New Graduate Assistant

10710505_10203790673985925_7235161262456506428_o

A portrait captured by my friend, Alex Xayatone, in Cordoba, Spain.

Hola!

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.

11932_10151488295492640_8312776_n

One of my favorite aspects of Latin American culture – the FOOD.

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!

10390459_10152953674232640_2998464849366535108_n

One of my final nights in Granada, watching the sun set over the Alhambra – the iconic Muslim + Moorish fortress/palace.

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?

10613157_10152704057032640_8393719581257631324_n

Two ‘hips’ and a ‘hooray!’ after climbing dragging myself up Mt. Vesuvius in Naples, Italy.

10734276_10152824082287640_5783183322884815412_n

Plaza de España in Sevilla, Spain.

10592763_10152695128092640_8935684585432807957_n

The Louvre in Paris, France.

10441003_10152693663907640_8566575290019668270_n

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

1512815_10152701973677640_2310658407954635521_n

The Roman Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

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.

10407363_10152758174432640_6050885613140877939_n

Riding a camel on the beaches of Morocco.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s