‘Looking back at my experience brings a smile to my face’


Juan Pablo Castano says his spring semester at University of Bristol in England taught him that “I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was.” It also allowed him to see a lot of interesting sights, for example Big Ben in London.

Juan Pablo Castano ’18 benefited from a study abroad experience during high school. So he wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to study abroad again during college

“Even though we have liberties and responsibilities while on campus that we might not have had before coming here,” says the computer science major, “they do not compare to the experience you have while living abroad.”

The semester he spent at University of Bristol in England during spring 2017 “taught me how to be an independent and responsible adult,” Castano says. “Besides, the opportunity to study at one of the top UK institutions is incredible. I met so many interesting and smart peers and professors who have inspired me to be a better student and person.”

And that’s not all. “Study abroad also forced me to leave my comfort zone, which in turn taught that I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was,” Castano says.

For example, he:

  • Planned trips all around Europe by himself, something he had never done before.
  • Discovered “I apparently do know how to cook for myself.”
  • Learned how to lean on people and how to reach out for help when he needed it.

“However, the most important things I gained abroad were friendships and traveling memories,” Castano says. “I traveled to around 10 countries with new and old friends, family, and even by myself.  Just looking back at my experience abroad brings a smile to my face.”

During one trip, for example, he “crashed” at a friend’s place in Madrid. “While she was in class, I would walk around the city by myself stopping by different monuments, buildings, parks, and shops,” Castano says. “We would then go out and have fun at night, which allowed me to experience how different cultures have fun.”

Even when he wasn’t traveling, he enjoyed waking up during the weekends and “immediately texting my friends to make plans for the day. Every weekend was different,” Castano says.  “Some days we would walk around parts of Bristol we hadn't seen. Some other days we would stay in to plan our following trips, and sometimes just to chat and watch a movie.”

Planning his study abroad was “very easy,” he says.  “All the relative information was available online and the process was very intuitive. People and resources were there to help in case I had any questions but it was not stress-inducing at all.” Castano worked with Rohan Palma, the Hajim School study abroad advisor; Carla Gottschalk in the University’s Center for Education Abroad, and Marty Guenther, the undergraduate coordinator in Computer Science. “However, my friends and I supported each other most of the process since it was very similar for all of us regardless of what we were studying.”

Castano received the same financial aid as if he had stayed on campus, plus the Hajim School International Experience Scholarship.

Two of the classes he took will count toward his computer science major.

His advice for other Hajim School students considering study abroad:

“Do it. Do everything you can so that you can go abroad. There are a ton of resources that will help you successfully plan your study abroad experience. Don't get stressed about the multiple options that the school offers, just choose one that appeals to you and apply! Also, don't listen to the fears or nervousness about living by yourself, it will all be worth it in the end.” 


During his study abroad semester, Castano’s family visited him. He joined them as they rented a car and drove from Paris to Munich, “stopping by a bunch of small towns and big cities on the way” – including Annecy, France, where this photo was taken.