Name: Alejandra Carranza

School: Washington State University

Major: Architecture and civil engineering

Can you tell us about your study abroad experience?

Before I even applied for college, my goal was to study abroad. I knew a study abroad experience would help me understand the world on a larger scale. I wanted to get myself out there and experience other cultures because it’s something that’s very important to me. I’m an introverted person so traveling, experiencing cultures, learning the languages, and walking in someone else’s shoes is an excellent opportunity that I wouldn’t want to miss.

I participated in a new study abroad program called First Generation Abroad. Their focus is on first generation students and providing them with the opportunity to travel and better themselves as global citizens. The program has been active for about four years and has taken students to Costa Rica, Italy, Spain, Morocco and many other countries. I was part of the third cohort, and we had the opportunity to travel to Spain and Morocco.

While there, we took classes in global competence and Spanish history. We learned how Spain built its infrastructure over time, and how the country functions even with its divisions within the country. One of the biggest lessons for me was about the influence of architecture in both Spanish and Moroccan culture. Spanish architecture is a clash between antiquity and modernism, while also searching for its own identity. In Morocco, color has a big influence in both the social and religious structure. I found the answer to a question I had about color. As it turns out, the closer you get to the equator, the more colorful the architecture gets. This is due to the heat and the environment. I knew I would need to ask questions to figure out how a country functions not only socially, but also structurally. I was shocked and strongly impressed as I learned how people built up their country and the materials that they used to do so.

Before I went on this trip, I took an architecture history class, and learned about cultures all over the world. This education helped a ton. Getting to physically be there made my experience even better. It is one thing to see something in a book, but it’s another to see something in person. I believe architects and engineers can change the world, and having the opportunity to experience an example of this only helps me in accomplishing my goals.

As a double major, where do you find support to succeed in your classes?

While at Washington State University, I’ve participated in several programs that helped me succeed in the last three years. One such program is the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program (LSAMP), which aims to increase the number of minority students in the STEM field while also providing research stipends, helping with graduate school or finding internships. Another program is the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) which provides support for first-generation migrant and seasonal farm worker students in transition from high school to college, by providing outreach, academic and financial assistance. The last program is TRIO Student Support Services Program, which is a federally funded program that provides support and opportunities in academic development.

These programs have been a support system and a connection. Over the last three years, the people in these programs have become a family for me. They have helped me pave the road to my future, which includes research, joining the Peace Corps, CAMP Adventure and finding internships. Another important benefit these programs have brought to my life is through the impact of mentorship I’ve received through the programs. My goal is to graduate with a major in both architecture and civil engineering, and use my education to help low-income populations and underdeveloped countries. I want to make an impact on people who feel that hope is lost. And, because of the same opportunities that were given to me, I want to show gratitude and share how far I’ve come.

What should people know about you?

Something about me: I’m a very serious person, but at the same time I love to be a little kid. The reason is not because little kids tend to be trouble makers, but because of the hope they give to others. I also adapt very quickly, because my father taught me to always be prepared and acquainted with my surroundings. I also love to ask questions because I love learning. I love being able to share my experience with others, because I hope that it pushes others to take advantage of opportunities, too.

What would be your advice to new Scholars?

Don’t be afraid to be a little kid, to explore and to take risks. I wouldn’t have studied abroad and had the chance to experience what I did if I hadn’t pushed myself. Don’t limit yourself because you feel like there is a boundary, like money or time. If you are willing to go, then just do it. Trust me, the experiences you have will always be memorable and will be worth it.

What’s next for you?

I’m hoping to study abroad in Italy with my sister next summer! I plan to take summer courses, too. I also need to start looking for internships so I can build myself up. A huge goal of mine is to get the Global Leadership Certificate by the end of the year. This certificate teaches cross-cultural understanding and global knowledge so that when I’m in the working world, I have a base of knowledge when working with diverse groups of people. When I combine this with my knowledge and experience from studying abroad, I know that I’ll be able to help people anywhere.