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Spotlight on Expanded Horizons

Madeline Bertasi (front row, second from left) lives, learns, and volunteers with fellow students from around the worldWhen Madeline Bertasi got to the University of Tennessee, she wanted to meet new people, learn a new culture and find a way to better mankind. To do all of that she knew she needed to expand her horizons, and study abroad seemed just the ticket.

"When I applied to colleges, I looked for a university that had a large study abroad program, because I have always loved to travel," said Bertasi, a sophomore in the College Scholars program from Germantown, Tenn.

A Multicultural Experience

She originally hoped to study in Spain so that she would be able to travel around to many different places in Europe.

"After speaking with my programs abroad adviser, I found that the program in Argentina was better suited toward learning Spanish at the level I was at than that in Spain," Bertasi said. "It turned out that Argentinean culture is perfect for me because half of my family is Italian and the other half is of Spanish descent, and a lot of the Argentinean population is of Italian descent and speak Spanish."

Bertasi has been studying at the Universidad Catolica de Cordoba in Argentina. Through the experience, she's met students from around the world.

"I am living with an Argentinean woman who does not speak any English at all and [with] two students from Finland," Bertasi said. "It's a multicultural house for sure. There is always something going on--something new to learn--a word in Spanish, one in English or in Finnish. It's always exciting!"

Opportunities to Volunteer

Bertasi describes her most memorable experience so far at a fiesta hosted by a group of students from Mexico.

"There are about 50 students here from Mexico, and 15 of them live in the same complex," Bertasi said. "They had many of us over for a small fiesta, and they cooked a huge meal for everyone. I was able to meet students from France, Germany, Japan, Spain and England."

She also has had the chance to volunteer at a local orphanage. "One of my roommates volunteers there regularly, and I was able to go with her one day. It was so much fun. There were about 80 kids, and they all wanted to hug and kiss me. It didn't matter if I understood a word they said. They loved me."

Bertasi has found other ways to help her new community, too. "The Universidad Catolica de Cordoba has some volunteer opportunities of its own. For instance, on weekends, a group of students travel to the country to do construction work and such," she said. "I am excited about having the chance to volunteer here because I love helping people . . . and I think it also will help me with the Spanish language.

Bertasi is finding study abroad a great venue for learning about new places and meeting people. "I have learned that there is so much you can learn from every single person on this Earth if you just give them a chance to teach you something," Bertasi said.

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