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GPI - Cecilia Reyes Alarcón, Assistant Director of International Programs

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

By Adam Harrison

Staff Writer

Courtesy of Cecilia Reyes Alarcón

What is your educational and professional background?

I am from Santiago, Chile, and I lived over there until I was 17, and then I moved to Oslo, Norway in Scandinavia, and I lived there for 23 years. So, I have been to different parts of the world, and I have done exchange programs, so I know that it’s an amazing opportunity. You gain so much. I learned so much about myself. I gained a new perspective about who I was, my country, and also a picture of the world. So, I am very happy to work at study abroad so I can help others out so they can experience the same. … I have a bachelor’s and master's degree in Latin American Studies with political science, so I needed to travel to Chile many times to work on my master’s. After it was finished, I worked for the embassy of Chile in Norway, and I was the director of the Consulate of Ecuador in Oslo. But then after COVID, we decided to move to the U.S. because my husband is from there.

What are some goals you would like to accomplish here at Framingham State?

To show the students that study abroad is possible - that it’s affordable. We have many different programs and it’s a big opportunity. My supervisor has been very good at finding programs where you pay the same or less than what you pay at FSU, so I think it’s a great opportunity and not a lot of the students know about it. So me going to the classes and advertising is a good thing. I want everyone to know that we have affordable programs and that they can get the help that they need with us.

What inspired you to pursue your career?

In Santiago, we have a culture that the only way to move from one's social economical condition is through education. So when I moved to Norway, it was a place to study - it felt kind of free. So for me, I always have been super focused on pursuing my goals and what inspires me now is my family, my daughter. I also think that when you’re moving, you’re exposed in a different way. As a woman, I really would like to show my daughter that she can follow the same path or whichever path she wants in her life.

What are some of the most important benefits and common struggles for those considering studying abroad?

I’ll start with the benefits: you gain a new perspective, you learn about yourself, you get a different way to connect with people and socialize, you get exposed to situations that you normally don’t get exposed to here, and you learn to embrace your own self and your own culture. When you travel as a student, you get to know who you are, connect with people, and also discover that there’s not just one way to do things. Struggles could be at the beginning when you have the shock of meeting a new culture, a new place, and I think that’s just the beginning of the journey with living abroad. Study abroad can be intimidating. We have many students who have never traveled abroad, or even outside the state, so thinking about going to another country can be very intimidating. You have to go out of your comfort zone. So when I was younger, I was more shy. But it’s like, we have something in Spanish we like to say, “Intentalo una y otra vez, hasta que el miedo te tenga miedo,” and it means try once and try again until the fear fears you. But we are here to help you and try to navigate with you through the whole process. We can also help students to find the place they want to travel or what they can take over there. It’s more advising, and students can come whenever they want to our office and we are more than happy to help all the students to find the path abroad.

What about students who want to travel abroad, but don’t speak the language of that country?

We have partnerships in all the universities we have in the exchange program, and all of them offer English classes. So you don’t need to speak a foreign language to travel to another country or study over there. If you have a second language - let’s say you spoke Spanish and want to try travel to South America - you can take a class in Spanish and you can take the rest of the classes in English.

What are some of your hobbies?

I used to run a lot, and I say that because it’s something I want to continue. I like to dance, I like to listen to music, and I love languages. So, I listen to a lot of podcasts every day in languages that I know so I can keep them at the same level.


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