Adversity Builds Character: Study Abroad Student Peter Donaldson

Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, Peter Donaldson is a senior at Texas Christian University. A double major in Political Science and International Business with a minor in Spanish and Hispanic Studies, in Summer 2021 Peter studied abroad at JCU, where he interned at the Web Communications Office.

Peter Donaldson

Peter Donaldson

How did you decide to study abroad at JCU?
When I was younger, my family and I lived abroad, which fostered in me a love of travel, experiencing different cultures, and being outside of my comfort zone. I planned on studying abroad in Spain my second semester of Junior year, however, due to COVID-19, all of TCU’s study abroad programs were cancelled. I was devastated, but then I discovered TCU’s summer abroad programs. TCU’s program in Rome was one of the few applications still open, and it was the longest period of time, so I chose it.

What was your best experience while spending your summer in Italy?
I have had so many incredible experiences while studying abroad that it is hard to pick one. I think the most unique experience I had was meeting the Pope, which happened completely by chance. On June 2, Italian Republic Day, I went to a papal appearance at the Vatican together with other TCU students. After getting through security, we entered the papal appearance area, which was surprisingly intimate, only about 200 seats. Once we sat in our seats, it was clear that the Pope was going to walk through a walkway that was blocked off on either side. Noticing this, I walked over to the barricade to secure my spot along the walkway. At approximately 9AM, Pope Francis came out in his official vehicle, then he got out of the car and started walking up and down the walkway. Eventually, he got to me, stopped right in front of me, and shook my hand. Knowing he was Argentinian, I introduced myself in Spanish, “Hola, me llamo Pedro.” He looked at me with all the attention in the world, made the sign of the cross, and said “Pietro.”

What did you learn about yourself from your summer abroad? How did this experience enrich you?
Studying abroad improved my adaptability and quick problem solving. Living in a foreign country with a different language and customs can prove challenging. Rome can especially be a difficult city to navigate. However, I enjoyed this part of my experiencing in discovering how to “figure out Rome.” It almost felt like a game or puzzle, and each bump in the road or small triumph improved my ability to adjust, think on my feet, and feel comfortable managing difficult situations.

What advice would you give to students who are hesitant about studying abroad?
I would advise those students to go for it! Study abroad is not always easy, but I think that is the beauty of it. I think that the highs and lows are what make studying abroad so special because it is a real experience of living, adapting, and assimilating to a community and culture. I believe that the most growth and fun are found when people seek discomfort. Being in these challenging situations stretches people for the better.

Can you tell us about your experience interning at the Web Communications Office in the Summer?
I loved my experience interning at the Office of Web Communications! Everyone in the office is so kind and helpful. I have especially loved the various projects I worked on. My job consisted of writing university news, taking and editing photos, managing the website, and making videos. Coming into the internship, I had little experience with digital media and web content management. However, with the guidance of members of the office, I have acquired many new skills.

What are your plans for the future?
After I graduate, I plan to join an international organization focused on service-oriented work. Growing up, my family has always instilled in me the importance of giving back and helping my community in any way I can. Thus, after I graduate, I would like to work for an organization with a mission of service and vision to make a positive impact in communities all across the world. This mission can take many forms: teaching, anti-trafficking work, grass-roots diplomacy, etc. Regardless, I hope to work for an international organization because of my love of experiencing different cultures, traveling, and being outside my comfort zone. Studying abroad this summer only confirmed my desire to live abroad for a significant period of time. With this in mind, I plan on applying to the Fulbright Scholarship, Peace Corps, various international English teaching positions, the IJM Global Fellowship, Teach for America, and many more.

I want to thank TCU for making this experience possible for me. I am truly grateful to Dr. Webb, Dr. Callaghan, and TCU’s Financial Aid Office. Without their help, I would not have been able to fulfill my dream of studying abroad. This summer has been so enriching, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for making this possible!