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Interview with Joseph Back

Tell us a little about yourself!
I am a Religious Studies major and Spanish minor, and during college I participated in study abroad programs in Puebla, Mexico and Stellenbosch, Western Cape Province, South Africa. I have two brothers and one sister, who all graduated before me. I went into the work force after high school and didn’t realize the imperative need for a degree until later on. My interests include theology, politics, and language, among others, and I am weighing whether or not to apply to graduate school. Currently I can speak, read and write Spanish, read and write Latin, and am planning to take French and Arabic for the first time this fall – a glutton for punishment!

When and where did you study abroad?
In the summer of 2016 I went to The Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Puebla in Puebla Mexico and took six credits, including a business internship experience. The following summer in 2017 I went to the Universiteit Stellenbosch, otherwise called Stellenbosch University, a bilingual institution in Stellenbosch South Africa near Cape Town. I'll receive six credits from this experience.

How old were you during your study abroad program?
At the time of my study abroad experiences I was 31 and 32 respectively.

Did you have any children before going abroad?
I did not have any children before going abroad.

How did you prepare for your study abroad experience?
I prepared for study abroad through research and (in the case of Mexico) completing the pre-requisite course the spring before departure.

What were your fears before going abroad?
My fears before going abroad were coming up with the money required and securing medical care in the event I might need it. The money was taken care of through a combination of scholarships, grants, and partial tuition waivers. The medical insurance and questions were taken care of by CISI insurance, which all students have for their program.

How did your study abroad experience go?
My study abroad experience went well, though I chose to stay in Stellenbosch and not participate in all of the weekend activities. I was able to meet and talk with many local people and get a perspective I never would have gotten if I had stayed with the study abroad group.

How did you benefit from studying abroad?
From studying abroad I gained world knowledge and self-confidence, the latter of which had taken a beating for some years prior. I learned to face the unknown and do it with enthusiasm. Good practice for graduation!

Did you have any advice for other non-traditional students who are thinking of studying abroad?
I would advise study abroad participants to do adequate research on their country beforehand and its issues, particularly political. History isn’t just words on a page but something that other people have experienced and been affected by. In South Africa this particularly applies to apartheid and the continuing effects from it 23 years later.