The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus


The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus


The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus


Opportunity Knocks Within Study Abroad Program

Courtesy of Natalie Hutchison

Hutchison shoots video for her documentary.

CSU Stanislaus alumni Natalie Hutchison and University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) participant, shares how USAC propelled her to accolades, not only in her education, but also in her professional career. 

Hutchison was a student wandering the sidewalks of Stan State in 2014, and like many, searching for purpose. Having not decided on what life after college would entail, she found herself studying in Viterbo, Italy through USAC in hopes of an answer.

 “I was never the type to know exactly what I wanted to do,” Hutchison said. “I actually have felt quite lost and stumbling through interests.”

While traveling for many is occasional, Hutchison recalls the very little time she spent outside the United States as a child. Having been raised for a brief period in Peru, she honed in on the skills and values taught to her as a child and utilized them in Italy. 

 “I did spend some of my youth in Peru, which I now see planted some valuable seeds that were useful when I did move to Italy,” she explained, “things an eight-year-old could pick up on, like the way so much of our body language is universal, and even when you don’t know the spoken language you can communicate and understand quite a lot.” 

Having mixed feelings and emotions while traveling is normal and for Hutchison, it was no different. A trip outside your home state can be nerve-racking, let alone a new country. 

Hutchison soon reached Italy and took to her studies. She studied travel writing, travel photography, basic Italian I and II, and art as history. While her studies were the prominent reason for her trip abroad, she found herself doing her own kind of teaching. 

While most people become accustomed to what they know, Hutchison had been presented with a calling of her own. The opportunity to teach English in trade was a possibility when she met Maria Giulia, her Italian partner, and the two would routinely converse in their different languages while in Italy. 

 “I was eager to learn Italian and realized quickly I’d also be instructing her in English,” Hutchison said. “The relationship became a great analogy for how I believe we should view the study abroad experience, or any interaction, which is that as much as we go into it looking to get something out of it, we’re also ambassadors to our own country, to ourselves and we have something to offer.” 

When she wasn’t studying or sharing foreign languages with her partner, she often found herself experiencing what was the norm for citizens in Italy; Italian art and history, medieval shows, writing for Italian publications, traveling to neighboring countries, and so on. In hindsight, she went, saw, and experienced. 

Nevertheless, the most rewarding part would prevail after returning home. Having found a sense of connection with storytelling and traveling, Hutchison had found a purpose, a reason, a path of travel that would catapult her into her professional career. 

“I was fresh-faced about the study abroad experience, I was eager to share it with everyone,” she said. “I was simultaneously leading the Signal, and we developed a section called  “A Warrior Abroad” to spotlight some of the stories coming out of student experiences, and also the paper’s first Spanish section, “La Letra Ñ” as we began catering to our non-English speaking readers. I was somewhere at the intersection of storytelling and international affairs.” 

Having fixated on Stan State’s student newspaper, Hutchison was soon transcending into a storyteller herself. 

She took her experiences in which she enriched herself while she was abroad and applied for an intern position at the United Nations where she eventually landed the position. While residing in Washington DC, she finished her master’s at American University where she studied journalism and public affairs with an emphasis on international journalism. 

She was well on her way, having landed a grant from the Pulitzer Center after pitching a documentary idea, she then moved to New York City where she interviewed Holocaust survivors from around the world. 

“I could see how studying abroad, a lens through which I could examine another culture, its politics, its people, while learning how to report on it, was seeping into this professional stepping stone,” she said.

She didn’t stop there. Following her job with the UN and a completing a documentary about deforestation she filmed in Peru, she is now a journalist with National Geographic, and a digital content producer for the publication. 

“With everything I’ve said about my trajectory, it’s important in my view to be true to your virtues and values,” she said. “If it aligns with a specific entity then your presence there will work out.”

Hutchison credits the USAC for playing a pivotal role in shaping her into who she is today. Not only was she able to travel and study abroad, but capitalize on the opportunity. 

Study Abroad Director, Brittany Fentress, shares some of the promotional insights the USAC program has to offer students.

“It promotes the following; Independence, confidence, an enriching educational experience,” she said.  

Fentress advocates for the department as director but also as someone who studied abroad herself. She highly encourages students to look beyond the surface of simply traveling abroad, but to look at the opportunities the program has to offer and embrace them as Stan State students. 

“It was one of the scariest things I had ever done but I made it to where I wanted to go and felt so empowered after I had done it,” Fentress said. “For me, there was nothing more eye-opening than reading about Chinese history in class and then taking a field trip where the event actually took place.” 

Hutchison shared how she had been mentored and attended conferences under Dr. Christopher Claus, chair of communications at Stan State. She took courses with Claus and said he helped her develop professionally during her coursework. 

At the time of this publication, Claus was not available for comment. 

Through it all, Hutchison continues to prosper as a professional in her respective career field. Continuing to field opportunities and learn through her professional career, she has vouched for the study abroad program and the opportunities that one may find while doing so. 

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Opportunity Knocks Within Study Abroad Program