Alumni Spotlight- Brandon Fong: Part 1

November 20, 2017

We recently had the chance to connect with API Alumnus, Brandon Fong. Brandon studied abroad with API in Seville his spring semester. He is a Spanish language, Business and Applied Sciences major from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In addition, to a study abroad and travel enthusiast, Brandon is also impressively a published author! You can view his book here. This is Part I of a two-part series.  

My name is Brandon Fong and I am obsessed with studying abroad. Thanks to both the Gilman and my home universities’ scholarships, I studied in Sevilla, Spain my sophomore year completely for free. Given that it was the first time I had ever left the United States, I was more comfortable going abroad with an academic program which provided more support and assistance with the entire process. With that in mind, I chose API and attended Pablo de Olavide University. I truly enjoyed my entire experience with API, and it was an added bonus that they organized trips throughout Spain and Portugal and that they provided opportunities to stay with a host family (highly recommended).

After a semester of making friends from all corners of the world — from Italy to the Sahara Desert —, mastering the Spanish siesta, and even flying a plane once with a Spanish speaking German, I became hooked. Not only did I get a taste of “the good life” but I also learned a lot about myself, sharpened my cultural acuity, and developed a deeper understanding of why people behave on a visceral level due to the environment that surrounds them.

Hungry for more, I came back to Whitewater and re-arranged my entire academic schedule so that I could study abroad for the second time in Jönköping, Sweden through a bilateral exchange program at the Jönköping International Business School (JIBS). Spanish Siestas were replaced with Swedish “Fikas” and my Spanish host family was replaced with roommates from France, India, and Mexico.

The one thing that I will say about both my experiences is that you do need to be comfortable with rapid change, yet simultaneously be as prepared as possible. While it may seem overwhelming at times trying to get credits to transfer back and getting lost in a country where you don’t speak the language, having a clear plan and staying organized will help keep you sane. It sounds like common sense, but you don’t want to be that student who gets set back a semester from graduating because you didn’t do your research. It’s okay to double and triple check! Also, note that you may need to make some sacrifices if you want to have an amazing time abroad. I was lucky enough to study abroad twice with a double major and a minor and still stay on track to graduate on time — but my senior year I will be taking 19 and 18 credits respectively to make up for the fact that I took the minimum amount of credits in both my semesters abroad. Totally worth it!

The friends you make, sights you see, and mouth-watering food you try are just a scratch on the surface of all the amazing things that will happen during your time abroad. Even though my two experiences were completely different, each of them taught me valuable lessons that I will take on for the rest of my life. Living in a different culture is filled with uncertainty. You never know where your journey is going to take you, what experiences you will have, or what decisions you will make that will inevitably make an impact on the course of your life. But there is one thing for certain — your life will never be the same again.


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