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Be International: Your first stop for SDSU international opportunities

Andrea Contreras and her faculty-led study abroad group




By Michael Klitzing

There’s no denying that Andrea Contreras had an international upbringing. The psychology senior was born in the United States, but mainly grew up in Mexico. She and her family also traveled widely throughout the Americas, covering the Western Hemisphere from Canada down to Peru.

But she had never made what she calls “the big jump” — across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

This summer, she finally did.

 Contreras just completed a faculty-led psychology program, studying multiculturalism and diversity in Switzerland and Italy. After the two week program was complete, she visited Munich, Rome and Florence, staying with her aunt while in Italy.

We recently sat down with her to chat about the experience — from making new friends to paddleboarding on Lake Geneva!

Overall, how was your study abroad experience?

“I loved it. I got a little homesick because it was three weeks and I am really, really close with my family. But I liked everything, especially getting to know my psychology classmates, the professor, and the program staff and teachers over there; Everyone was really nice!”

Why did you choose this program specifically?

“It was always one of my dreams to go to Switzerland. I've always seen that it's so green and I really love nature. Seeing pictures of the Alps and the trees and the snow, I really wanted to get to know it. And the cows, too! (laughs)”

Was it everything that you hoped it would be?

“It was better. You just get amazed by all the nature and the culture. It makes you want to get to know other places. I want to go back so I can eat more chocolate and cheese!”

What did you think of the experience of traveling with a group instead of going abroad by yourself?

“It was different. I'd never studied abroad and I didn't really know any of the students who were going, beyond the two meetings that we had prior to departure. But I got to know everyone by being with them every day for two weeks, and it was pretty awesome. I made new friends and it made me feel more like a member of the SDSU community."

What did you think of the course and what you learned?

“There weren't a lot of classes but there were certain days where we had long hours of classes. The content was really interesting and I could relate to it because it was a lot to do with culture; Since I grew up with two cultures -- U.S. and Mexico — it was cool to compare that with Swiss culture and European culture in general.

Do you have an example of how those cultures differ from what you’re used to?

“Well, in the U.S. when you greet someone it's "Oh, hi!" but there's no physical contact. In Mexico there's a little bit of contact. In Europe there's more contact! It was interesting and kind of weird; When I was with my aunt, a friend of hers came over and greeted me by kissing both of my cheeks. We usually do one kiss on the cheek in Mexico. I think I felt how American-raised people feel when Mexicans say hi to them with a kiss! (laughs)”

What was your best experience?

“Lake Geneva! Before the program I had done a lot of research on the places we were going. I made lists of things I wanted to see and I saw most of them. After classes, when they gave us free time, I was like, "OK, I'm going to do these two things, who wants to come with me?" So we went paddleboarding in Lake Geneva. We went to the Tropical Corner and watched the sunset through the mountains, instead of over the ocean like I'm used to. It lasted two hours and was so cool. I was in constant awe."


Andrea Contreras in the Alps.

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