Study Abroad Interview: Ariel Gustanski

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Getting to experience Roman culture first hand was an inspiring experience for this MBA student who truly embraced the joys of Italian life and culture. Having some prior experience with Italian in her undergraduate education, she was able to share her language abilities and local friend with her cohort, allowing for opportunities to see life outside of the city.

How does study abroad still have an impact on your life today?

Having spent time in Italy, Ariel feels that she is able to take the skills she gained and apply them to her career, especially in regards to cultural understanding. “In my occupation, I interact with people from all cultures frequently, and by gaining first-hand knowledge about a different culture my awareness and understanding is significantly increased, even though it was just the tip of the iceberg with regard to fully understanding the culture.” Even though she acknowledges that her time was brief and as a result she is not a cultural expert, Ariel feels she can use her new understanding and methods for engaging unfamiliar cultures in some capacity in her everyday life.

Explain a situation you experienced abroad in which you learned a new skill.

Ariel did her undergraduate studies in the Italian canton of Switzerland which her allowed to have some familiarity with the Italian language. However, she got rusty over years of nonuse so being able to go back and put some of it to use again was thrilling for Ariel. “I learned some new words along the way and was occasionally put to the challenge of being an amateur interpreter for my friends.”

How did study abroad change your perspective of the world and yourself?

“Every and any opportunity to travel to a different culture opens the chance to learn something new about yourself and the world you’re surrounded by” Ariel says. There is something about going to a new place that helps you look in and see your own culture, expectations and attitudes differently.  Having previous international experience, Ariel attests to travelling as often as you are able because each experience will bring something new, especially as you are growing as a person. Comparing her undergraduate experience and her most recent study abroad as a master’s student, Ariel says “By combining the MBA program with this study abroad experience I think that I am better able to analyze problems with a larger, more encompassed, perspective.”

Share a completely unexpected experience you had while you were abroad. What did you learn from it?

“One of the most unexpected experiences during the program, was also my favorite from the experience”. As Ariel has a close friend who lives in Rome, she was able to get to see life outside of the city and really get away from any touristy locations. Ariel and a group of her cohort had spent time with this friend for a few nights during the trip which turned out to be an amazing bonding experience for them.  Before the cohort left, Ariel’s friend invited the group over to her house for a traditional Italian meal, “she welcomed us into her home with open arms.” It was an amazing opportunity, especially as she lived a bit outside of the city and just the experience of getting there and back was fun and exciting for Ariel and her cohort. Ariel shared that it is always a bit nerve wracking to introduce two groups of your friends, but this is magnified when it is friends from two different cultures. Ariel happily said, “I could not have asked for a better outcome! This made me realize that I should not always be so apprehensive in those, or similar situations, it may turn out to be an amazing memory. Just like the dinner part did!”

What do you wish you would have known before you studied abroad?

“Nothing, I think I always enjoy myself and an experience when I have few, or no expectations of what will come – I think that this enables me to have “in the moment” realizations, learning moments, enjoyment and ultimately [I think] a more positive experience.”

How did studying abroad positively affect your personal, professional, or academic life?

In Ariel’s experience, having the opportunity to study abroad specifically with her MBA classmates and those from other cohorts built stronger connections between them while getting to know the individuals she doesn’t see as often much better. “The program itself was an amazing opportunity to see leadership and business coming together in a different lens and context, which was exciting for me.”

June 7, 2017