Study Abroad Profile: Zachary Gross

Submitted by Web Communications on October 13, 2011

Communicating in Spanish with my classmates and host family improved my language skills, but it also boosted my self-confidence. I learned to be more outgoing and to try things I never thought I would…most of them involving volcanoes.

Zachary Gross ’12

Hometown: Roxbury, CT

Program: Spanish Major, Latin American & Caribbean Studies Minor

Why Nicaragua?

I studied in Managua, Nicaragua from January – May 2011. As a Spanish major, I knew I wanted to study in a Spanish-speaking country, and I also wanted to be in a tropical location that would afford me a different experience than life in New England. Latin America, with its curious mix of Spanish and indigenous cultures, has always fascinated me, so when I found out about the Fairfield-sponsored program in Managua, the decision was practically made for me. The cost of living in Nicaragua is much less than it is here, so that was also an important factor.

greatest inspiration

What inspired me most about Nicaragua was how warm the people were. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt comfortable and relaxed.The pace of life is much slower there, and everyone – from the staff and students at la Universidad Centroamericana where I studied, to my language partner, to my wonderful host family – took very good care of me. They accepted me as an exchange student, and we had fun learning about each other’s cultures. It is also comforting to know that I have met lifelong friends in Nicaragua.

abrupt, transformational, & new paths

Studying abroad in Managua provided me with a full immersion experience that taught me much, both about Hispanic culture and about myself. Communicating in Spanish with my classmates and host family improved my language skills, but it also boosted my self-confidence. I learned to be more outgoing and to try things I never thought I would…most of them involving volcanoes.

My four months in Nicaragua validated my decision to become a Spanish major and a Latin American & Caribbean studies minor, and I know that I want to continue to explore Latin America for years to come. Following graduation, I have plans to work with a nonprofit organization that serves the people of Oaxaca, Mexico. My study abroad experience helped me see that I want to dedicate my time to traveling to foreign lands and connecting with the peoples of Latin America. Nicaragua is a stunningly beautiful country with a tumultuous and often misunderstood past, and studying abroad there was one of the most fun, unique, and meaningful experiences of my life.

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