Ayala, Jesus, BA in Political Science and American Studies, minor in Ethnic Studies

Name: Ayala, Jesus
Title: BA in Political Science and American Studies, minor in Ethnic Studies
Company/Organization/University: University of California, Berkley

I first traveled abroad in August 2000ó to Madrid, Spainó as a third-year undergraduate at UC Berkeley. While in Madrid I studied politics, journalism and feminist theory at Complutense University. On the first day of my international relations course my professor jokingly said that Americans are completely clueless. Although I immediately objected, I now appreciate my professorís comment. In many ways my views about the world were indeed limited.

Fortunately, my professors in Spain pushed me to look beyond my reservations and to critically challenge my own beliefs. Learning how to own-up both the good and the bad is difficult, but as a result, now I have a better understanding about international politics and the role our country plays in shaping global policy.

I lived in La Latina, a neighborhood that attracts many immigrants from Morocco, Ecuador, and many eastern European countries. My interactions with local residents complimented what I learned in the classroom. A year abroad taught me that people have views that may differ from mine, and that is perfectly fine.

I did not anticipate learning about Muslim culture while in Spain, but I am glad that I did. Initially, I learned most from observing Moroccans and Spaniards interact. Upon reflection, I realized that the Moroccan experience was comparable to that of a Mexican migrant living in the United States. I became sympathetic and I discovered a new interest: Middle Eastern politics.

I pursued this interest by visiting several countries in the Middle East and northern Africa. Visiting Israel and some Palestinian territories was a reality check. While in the Middle East I witnessed first hand how fearful terrorism can truly be. As I look back at the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, I realize that my time abroad gave me the skills that have allowed me to better understand the way in which terrorism challenges international security.

In Israel I was forced to be aware of my surroundings at all times, and now that terrorism is closer to home, I do not want fear to take control of my life. Waging a war on terrorism, though, is not enough. In some countries like Israel and Colombia, for example, everyday is September 11th. The challenge is finding a solution; a good first step is learning about others. Now more than ever as U.S. citizens we need to know what is happening outside our nationís borders and must be capable of working and understanding people from diverse backgrounds.

Diversity is a key word to coping while abroad. Change should be expected, and should be the reason why one should go abroad to begin with. I chose to study at Complutense University because of the diverse opportunities it offered in both politics and communications. When I enrolled at UC Berkeley I immediately gravitated towards political science. As a first year student my mind was captivated by world politics and the intricacies of global interactions. Yet, I was disappointed with the fact that my university did not offer journalism studies at the undergraduate level and I did not understand the role that journalists play in our society. As in my case, some foreign universities may provide academic opportunities that your home university may not offer. I was first introduced to journalism while in Madrid and in the last few years my passion for Journalism has only grown. My study abroad experience directly shaped my decision to pursue graduate studies in journalism.

After having studied in Madrid I decided that I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to continue to grow intellectually as a scholar and a human being each day. As an aspiring radio and TV producer I wake up each day knowing that the course of humanity can change at any time, and as a journalist, I sometimes feel overwhelmed knowing that I have the obligation to document history as it happens. However, I take comfort in the fact that I always go to bed feeling content that Iíve learned something new each day.

As a bilingual journalist living in Los Angeles I use Spanish on a daily basis. My Spanish skills often give me an edge and allow me to tell news stories that other journalists would have a difficult time pursuing. Although I am a native Spanish speaker, studying abroad is Spain was vital for me. While is Spain I was forced to fully develop my Spanish skills in order to compete academically with native students. While I was abroad I honed my verbal, writing, research, and critical analysis skills. When I first arrived in Spain the thought of writing a scholarly paper in Spanish was dreadful. Now, even if I had to write an entire thesis in Spanish I would not panic.

Like many things in life, traveling is a hard skill to master. It requires emotional maturity, patience, tolerance, versatility, quick thinking and a practical knowledge about the politics and culture of the geographical area you are going to. In the future I plan to continue to travel abroad in the capacity of an investigative producer and produce news stories about national and international politics. I am not afraid nor am I worried about where I may end up tomorrow. I like to challenge myself, both in school and in my daily life and I know that my study abroad experience has already prepared me for my future endeavors.