April 28, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

A female student stands on a brick road with colorful umbrellas hanging above her.
Elizabeth Booze is graduating on Saturday. She says her semester off-campus in Honduras was the highlight of her Calvin career.

When Elizabeth Booze was looking at making the transition from high school to college, she was looking for two things: a smaller Christian college and a good Spanish program.

With that criterion, she narrowed it down to two schools.

The tipping point? She wanted to graduate in three years. For Booze, Calvin University provided her a path.

Going Beyond Expectations

But, that path Booze would take proved to go beyond even her expectations and took her beyond Calvin’s campus.

“The best thing about Calvin was my study abroad experience. 100%,” said Booze, a 2023 graduate with majors in Spanish and global development studies. “It’s the best study abroad program hands down.”

The program, which is led by Spanish professor Maria Rodriguez, was a formative one for Booze. She lived with a host family, took classes at a local university, interned at an orphanage helping the children with their homework, and experienced living abroad with her classmates.

“I came back to Calvin with 17 new best friends. It was great to have that community,” said Booze. “You get to know people, especially your host families, and have so many great experiences and you come back with a different mindset.”

Confidence and experience leads to opportunity

Booze came back with confidence, something she lacked when she first started at Calvin.

“My first semester I was too scared to talk to the administrative assistant in the Spanish department, because I felt like I couldn’t speak Spanish,” said Booze. “I came back from Honduras able to connect with everyone.”

Now, Booze, will have the opportunity to head back abroad after graduation. Earlier this month, she received an email saying she received a Student Fulbright Award. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

“I started crying,” said Booze of finding out, and then she went to the Spanish Department to share the exciting news.

Making deeper connections

Through the Fulbright Program, Booze will be headed to Mexico from September 2023 through May 2024. While there, she will spend 20 hours per week as an English Teaching Assistant in a local school and will be hosting conversation groups to promote cultural exchange. She’s hoping to spend an additional 20 hours a week volunteering in an after-school program.

“I’ve had a desire to practice Spanish with native Spanish speakers since high school,” said Booze. “My mom would drop me off my sophomore year of high school at an apartment complex to volunteer with a local nonprofit. That’s where I developed this passion, where I really saw how I could use language to connect with people.”

A couple of internships, a study abroad experience, and three years of a Calvin education later and Booze is ready to deepen this connection abroad.

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