DANBURY, Connecticut — As she walked in Western Connecticut State University’s Commencement ceremonies last weekend, Gabrielle Caravetta was both excited about her future and inspired by her experiences as a Communication Studies student in the university’s Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences. Fresh off a semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain, with the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), Caravetta said, “This was a blessed way to end my college career.”
Growing up in Southbury, Caravetta said she recognized that the demographics at Pomperaug High School were extremely homogenous. Her initial college choice, Roger Williams University, turned out to be very much the same, which prompted her to transfer to WCSU.
“I wanted to be immersed in diversity and culture,” Caravetta explained. “WCSU’s demographics are way more colorful, it had a great reputation, was close enough for a short commute, and I was very familiar with Danbury.”
Once she transferred, Caravetta became involved in what the campus had to offer, and while browsing through the university website she noticed information about study-abroad programs. “It has always been a dream of mine to speak Spanish fluently, and I noticed that the top study-abroad destination was Barcelona,” she said. “I love city life — the activity and noises, being able to walk out of your apartment and get a coffee — it’s exactly the opposite of where I grew up.”
Caravetta said she wanted to experience European culture and the better work-life balance that exists outside of the U.S. “Spain is slower paced, I knew the food would be excellent, and where it’s located makes it easy to travel to Italy and France.”
As part of the ISEP program, Caravetta enrolled at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, and took both Spanish and business classes. “The education system is much more challenging and requires more critical thinking, in my opinion,” Caravetta said. “I went there having had no Spanish classes and came back relatively fluent in Spanish. I believe one of the most valuable skills is to have another language under your belt, and travel is the best way to learn. My ability to speak Spanish is going to help me thrive in a global company. I want a job where I can travel and work with people from other countries.”
Caravetta went to Barcelona by herself. “You have to step out in faith and not let fear take over,” she said. Once there, she met other students from down south and out west and found that learning about the differences from regions within our own country was interesting. “We were all happy to be away and soaking up this amazing opportunity,” she said. “Most of the people I met were really nice and we all tried to get to know each other since we were in the same boat getting used to new things.
“It’s strange at first, because the sky is still blue and you’re walking on the ground, and everyone around you is speaking a different language,” she said. “Now being back home and everyone speaking English is weird.”
Caravetta believes that everything in life happens for a reason, including her finding the study abroad page on the university website. “I believe in a universal higher power and I took the initiative to learn more about studying abroad. You need to trust that everyone you meet and every experience you have is for a reason — even hardship — because it will serve to sharpen your character.”
Now that commencement is behind her, Caravetta said she is considering several employment offers as a content manager. She hopes to land a fashion or travel editorial opportunity and is producing her own music and poetry on TikTok and Instagram. Caravetta’s advice to students contemplating the ISEP experience is “stay on top of all the responsibilities and steps you have to take to get there, and once all the steps are completed, get excited about the journey and the cultural experiences you will gain. In the U.S., you’re limited in some ways in how you can live your life. Traveling shows you all your options in the world. Embrace differences.”
For more information about ISEP, contact Donna Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org or WCSU Public Relations at email@example.com.
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.