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International Education Week 2022: Student Profile

Monica Chauca is a third-year Special Education major from Chicago, Illinois. She is a member of El Orgullo Latino, Las Mujeristas, and Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority, Alpha Delta chapter. She participated in the History in Spain Integrated Faculty-led program in the summer of 2022. In an integrated program, students take a fall or spring semester course at UD and then travel during break with their professor and classmates to apply what they've been learning. This is an amazing opportunity to experience many of the sites and context students have read and heard about during their on campus course. Monica is a World Associate student employee in the Global and Intercultural Affairs Center. 


Who or what inspired you to work towards being a globally minded citizen?

I am passionate about meeting people from around the world! I want to learn about and integrate with different cultures to experience more of the world. I took an English course this summer and it has made me realize how amazing an opportunity like studying abroad can be to develop the human brain. In my English course I learned about “futureless” and “future” languages, and how that plays a role in the upbringing of a population of people depending on where they live. Spain speaks a future language which means that “the future is viewed as time away from the present” and my time in Spain was exactly that mentality. Living in the moment of enjoying my exploration of life’s treasures, I was able to expand my own way of thinking and explore what is beyond my own perception of the world.


Why did you choose an integrated program?

There were a number of reasons. My initial interest was because the program was scheduled to start on my birthday! But also, the program was very flexible and the students involved in the program were incredibly diverse–in fact, several of my friends signed up for the program. The benefits of integrated programs were also very attractive to me. Integrated programs are cost-effective, since the tuition was part of my Spring semester cost. And, this program in particular was a two-week program, which was a great way to try out study abroad. 


What were some of your favorite parts of the time on site in Spain?

My favorite part about Toledo, Spain was when we went on a hike! It was quite a journey to go to the top but the view was worth it. There was a lot of medieval art, a local artist signing, jewels, and swords.  The Plaza del Sol has to be my favorite place when visiting Spain as a location to meet locals because around the area there are a lot of shops and restaurants. 

A highlight that comes to mind was when we saw a bunch of guards surrounding a building outside a restaurant my friends and I were leaving and we took a picture because it seemed important. When we asked the professor what was excited about, he shared that it was the king and queen of Spain!


When you think of home, what comes to mind? 

Home can mean many things to many people, but for me, it means warmth. It can be the warmth from a group of friends, family, or even one person.Wherever it may be found, the feeling of being safe and warm that reminds me of home because home is where you are accepted and loved. 


What was your favorite part of your program? 

I learned from my experience in Spain about having my own independence when living outside of the country. There are new customs, new mannerisms, and new ways of traveling that changed my view of life. I learned to be more independent and take responsibility in paving my way through various situations. An example is how it was difficult for me to understand the train system in Madrid, but then I was able to learn more and more about how public transportation in Spain worked. It was different from what I am used to in Chicago, but it was an adventure in itself to explore more. I learned a lot about what I could do independently from having to figure it out, even though it could be frustrating sometimes. I think that from this experience I have come to realize I want more in life than what I am used to. I do not like a routine of the same thing every day, because that would not be an exciting life to live! Because of this program, I want to experience more new adventures that life has to offer. 


What do you think you learned from your experience?

Many students are used to relying on their parents to get things done for them, but I realized that sometimes it’s important to take the lead. In moments of challenge on the trip, I had to be more independent than I had to previously. Knowing how to navigate being an adult and face new situations is something I learned. I grew up in a neighborhood in Chicago that was very homogeneous: all Hispanic, all Catholic. Moving outside that comfort zone has helped me to see that new experiences help us grow. I’m planning on continuing that learning by teaching English overseas when I graduate, maybe in Spain! 


Favorite souvenir? 

Fans! I collect fans from all over the world. I also love to give them as gifts.

Our full list of integrated programs can be found here. You can also schedule a meeting with our advisor, Maria Jay, here.

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