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Senior spreads the word about study abroad

November 15, 2010

If Joe Gallego had his way, he’d have every college student booked on a flight overseas, enrolled in a semester of study abroad. His own five-month study experience at the University of Granada in Spain last year changed his life, giving him new confidence, changing the way he views the world.

He now works as a peer adviser in the Study Abroad office at Arizona State University, talking to students and making presentations to classes, getting others as excited as he is about keeping their passports up to date.

“Study abroad changes the way you perceive yourself and your country, and gives you an overwhelming sense of self-discovery,” Gallego says. “It affected me in such a dramatic way. I learned that I had the ability to adapt to a new environment that was scary, and I improved my language skills dramatically.”

The senior in Spanish from Yorba Linda, Calif. says that’s just one of the opportunities he’s found at ASU to make his college experience memorable.

“I thought I could make a name for myself here,” says Gallego. “When I walked on campus I just got a vibe, that it was an environment where I could make friends, learn at a high level and easily connect with professors.

“I was between UCLA, Berkeley and ASU. But ASU handed me all the resources I needed to stand out.”

As a pre-med student with a 3.84 GPA, Gallego stands out in many ways. He works in the cochlear implant lab in the Speech and Hearing Sciences Department, administering tests to research subjects and working with Spanish-speaking patients. He teaches a freshman seminar course, helping first-year students learn good study habits and navigate the university system.

He gives tours of Barrett, the Honors College, works with international students to pair them with American-born students, gives lectures and presentations to gay youth on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and provides respite care for caregivers at Hospice of the Valley.

He’s also a scribe at a local hospital, and he was chosen as one of eight honors students to intern for three weeks at Mayo Medical School and Clinic in Minnesota.

Oh, and in October he was selected ASU Homecoming King. He wore a crown and rode in a parade, along with the queen.

“It was overwhelming, to receive that much attention for the whole day,” says Gallego. “You feel like a famous person for a day. I was so flattered. It was neat to represent the ASU community in a positive light.”

While working in the Study Abroad office remains his favorite activity, Gallego is eager to move on to medical school. He hopes to serve underprivileged communities as a surgeon. He’s grateful for the breadth of the opportunities he’s been given.

“You can involve yourself with whatever you have a passion about here. ASU has so many resources, so much to offer. You just have to tap into them. They’re all here.”