A Student at ESU Visits Her Dream Destination

By Oksana Smoliniec
SC Contributing Writer

Have you noticed how traveling the world seems to be the new cool thing to do? The best time to take advantage of life-changing opportunities is now.

Going somewhere one has never been while creating unforgettable experiences is essential to self-discovery, which is the main thing we are all doing in college to begin with, isn’t it?

Busy balancing school, work and a social life, students often lose sight of themselves and the opportunities around them.

By coordinating with programs such as ISEP, CIS abroad, and SAI ESU has made it possible for students to study abroad in hundreds of countries.

“The most popular locations with studying abroad for ESU’s students are similar to those of students across the U.S. including: Australia, England, France, Italy, and Spain.” said Michael Laffey, Coordinator of International Programs.

ESU’s Marisa Pagan-Figueroa is a student who has utilized the universities study abroad facilities to make the most of her undergrad experience here.

She has studied in China, England, Puerto Rico, and Spain.

Pagan-Figueroa said, “I wanted to study all 4 years in Puerto Rico but the only way to apply was to do everything over there. So when I learned that I could study there for a semester, I figured why not?”

When she studied abroad in China, England, and Puerto Rico it had been for a month. Spending an entire semester in Puerto Rico helped Pagan-Figueroa sharpen her Spanish speaking skills.

She enjoyed the experience more than others given that the additional time provided her with the chance to get used to the way of life there.

Coming from a Puerto Rican-American family, Pagan-Figueroa has always been interested in learning about new cultures and experiencing them.

She smiled in reminiscence of her life growing up when at 8 years old Pagan-Figueroa went on a 50 day road-trip with her mom and brother across America.

“My favorite memory was probably leaving Mt. Rushmore because the sunset cast a purple shade around the mountains. It was gorgeous,” Pagan-Figueroa said of the experience.

When asked what made her pursue traveling so fearlessly Pagan-Figueroa responds, “When I was in high school I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to El Salvador. Ever since then, I knew I had to travel again.”

Her first experience studying abroad was in China with Dr. Wenjie and Dr. Mash. Noticing a flyer about an information session she suggested the idea to her mother, Sonia, and they decided to go together.

“Being able to go to the Great Wall of China at 18 made me feel alive, as if I had discovered one of my passions in life, to see as much of the world as possible,” says Pagan-Figueroa. Both Pagan-Figueroa and Sonia loved China and shared that the organization of the trip was better than any other study abroad experience either of them had before.

“It was just perfect. The experience was phenomenal in the sense that the richness of the culture is prominent in everything and seen all around you,” said Pagan-Figueroa.

After studying abroad for a month in China, Pagan-Figueroa spent the following spring semester studying in Puerto Rico. Less than a week after returning home she left for Spain in May of 2014 to study abroad in Andalucia.

A few weeks later Pagan-Figueroa went to London, England for a month, a place she had always dreamed of seeing.

“Traveling that much was a lot but I can honestly say it was the best year of my life up to this point. This lifestyle comes naturally to me at this point, it has led me to find myself and make friends all over the world,” said Pagan-Figueroa.

She recommends that students with a major or minor in any language try to go to the country in which the language originates to fully immerse themselves in it, if not for a full semester at least for the month long programs offered.

Pagan-Figueroa shares a revelation her experiences created for her regarding a career, “Studying abroad defined what I want to do with my life which is international law. I have always had an interest in law, but being that I have a passion for writing I knew that an English degree could still get me there too.”

At only 20 years old Pagan-Figueroa is graduating from ESU this May, 2015 with a dual major in English and Spanish.

She is more successful than most people her age but despite her wisdom her family and humbleness keep her grounded.

She continues to make her parents and the ESU community proud by being a positive influence. Pagan-Figueroa will be speaking for the College of Art and Sciences during commencement.

To students considering studying abroad Pagan-Figueroa says, “Don’t think about it just do it, at least once. If you don’t at least one time while in college you are truly missing out. The only time you are able to afford a trip like this is as a student.”

When asked where she plans to go from here Pagan-Figueroa smiled and said, “I am so excited to begin the next chapter of my life. My application has been accepted to the Cultural Ambassador program, allowing me to teach English in Spain for a year, I am just waiting on my placement.”

If anyone is interested in learning more about this great opportunity can find more information at: www.mecd.gob.es/euu/convocatorias-programas/convocatorias-eeuu/auxiliaresconversacion-eeuu.html.

Pagan-Figueroa will be completing the Oxford seminar program this summer at Rutgers University in New Jersey, certifying her to teach English as a second language anywhere in the world.

She is eagerly looking forward to living in Spain for a year and being able to travel Europe.

Afterwards, Pagan-Figueroa will be looking into grad schools to study international law to obtain the career of her dreams.

Any student interest in exploring opportunities in studying abroad can visit Michael Laffey in Stroud Hall 103, by phone at (570) 422-3527.

Or you can send him an email at mlaffey@esu.edu.

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