#StudyAbroadBecause... Life is too short for regrets

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Kirsten Maxwell runs Kids Are A Trip, which is a family travel resource sharing tips and advice about travel with children in hopes of helping other families plan their vacations. She notes, "We are a Chicago-based family with three boys who love to explore the world around us. We believe travel in itself is an education and we hope to educate ourselves and others as we share our experiences and adventures around the world."

Kirsten Maxwell: #StudyAbroadBecause... Life is too short for regrets

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?

I went abroad between my junior and senior year in college. I had recently changed my major from Marketing to Spanish and convinced my parents it was necessary to study abroad in Spain to strengthen my language abilities.

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?

When I studied abroad, there was no internet, and I had a calling card with a limited amount of money to call home. I was homesick for quite awhile, but in hindsight I should not have been. 

There were so many amazing memories, but my favorites were touring the Alhambra in Granada and seeing El Greco's paintings in Toledo. Both are beyond beautiful.

The biggest challenge was finding time to sleep and budgeting money. I was with a group of 40 other students and we had classes in the morning, but would go out every night. We made the most of siesta time when we could. It was also my first time having to really live within my means, which was challenging at times.

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? 

My Spanish certainly improved. There were 4 of us in the 400 level class. We were the translators for everyone!

The experience definitely changed me. It made me want to see the world and helped me be more confident with my language skills. I wouldn't trade that for anything!

Kirsten Maxwell: #StudyAbroadBecause... Life is too short for regrets

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? 

The experience definitely helped me. I finished my Spanish degree and then went back to get an Elementary Education degree. I taught bilingual education for several years before having children. I still use Spanish whenever the opportunity presents itself.

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad? 

Before traveling, do your research. Talk to others who have been. Find out what they learned and take their advice. I had nobody to talk to ahead of time and it would have been quite helpful in preparing me for the experience.

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

Well, my grandmother is Puerto Rican, so I guess you could say the opportunity to solidify my Spanish language skills really impressed upon me the importance of cultural identity. I teach my own kids about their ancestors and where they come from because studying abroad really gave me a bigger view of the world.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

If you are hesitant to study abroad, let it go. It will be the best adventure of your life.


#StudyAbroadBecause... Life is too short for regrets


Photos courtesy and copyright Kirsten Maxwell