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Chico State

Study Abroad Translates into Multiple Majors

Marco Macotela stands on the second floor of the BMU with flags from around the world behind him.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Marco Macotela, whom has studied abroad four times and works in the Study Abroad office, is photographed among the variety of country flags that hang in the BMU Atrium on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU Chico)

Travel was the last thing on Marco Macotela’s mind when he began studying at Chico State as a transfer student in fall 2013. His goal was simple: find a major that would help him help others. 

“I wanted to help people,” the San Jose native said. “I thought a good career path was being a police officer.”

So he enrolled as a criminal justice major. But as he continued his studies, he decided the career concept didn’t fit his goal in just the right way. 

Not wanting to let his hard work go to waste, Macotela continued his criminal justice studies but found himself considering other opportunities Chico State offered. In the years to come, he would tack on additional majors with every subsequent interest—anthropology, Asian studies, and international relations. And if that weren’t enough, the quadruple major also acquired minors in sociology, political science, and international studies.

But he wasn’t sure how they fit together—especially with his longstanding goal of helping others—just yet.

Enter Study Abroad.

During his transfer student orientation, Macotela had learned Chico State was ranked in the nation’s top three universities for studying abroad for a year. (This December, the University’s Study Abroad and International Exchange program rose to No. 2 in the latest ranking by the Institute of International Education). He decided to take advantage of yet another opportunity, eventually traveling to Czech Republic, Thailand, Brazil, and Cuba—and discovering a whole new world of possibilities along the way.

Marco poses with a woman in a busy street in Brazil, under a giant Brazilian flag.
Brazil was one of four countries Macotela studied in during his stints abroad.

“I did a summer semester in the Czech Republic and loved it,” Macotela said. “I ended up wanting to go for a whole semester and went to Thailand. A lot of the international relations and Asian studies classes overlapped, so I ended picking those two (majors) up just because they were so interesting.”

In his multiple experiences in other nations, Macotela joined hundreds of Chico State students who pursue global education each year. A total of 326 students studied abroad during the 2016–2017 academic year, with Italy, Spain, Thailand, Germany, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom as the top destinations among 38 available countries.

“Marco is a great example of a student who took full advantage of opportunities available to him at Chico State, both on campus and while studying abroad,” said Jennifer Gruber, coordinator of Study Abroad and International Exchange. “Studying abroad opens students to new experiences, not only in their college career but in life, through exposure to diverse cultures, languages, and ways of thinking. Through experiential learning, Study Abroad provides long-term benefits and development for an individual academically, professionally, and personally.”

Despite his growing courseload, Macotela still managed to revel in the differing cultures, his newfound friendships, and miscellaneous adventures in global lands, enjoying every minute. But through it all, he also saw the darker sides of those countries.

“I ended up seeing that [human] trafficking was an issue,” he said. “I was more aware of it, I think, because there was a presenter in one of my criminal justice classes. She talked about human trafficking, about what happens to the victims, and it just stood out to me since.” 

Portrait of Marco Macotela
Marco Macotela’s desire to help others is a thread among all four of his majors, three minors, and the certificate he earned upon graduation.

Witnessing human trafficking firsthand provoked Macotela’s protective nature more so, and he decided that he would put his extensive education to use by either living and working abroad to help trafficking victims get back their lives or perhaps staying in the United States, working as a forensic examiner to help rape survivors identify their attackers and get justice. 

“I just want to help,” Macotela said, “I want to do something—anything to help these people.”

So he added one last pursuit to his growing list of academic achievements—a certification in forensic identification. After graduating in December 2017, he finished his certification through Open University in May 2018. 

Looking back on his education, he said he would not have traded any of the opportunities. Whether traveling and competing as part of the Model United Nations team, interning in the Study Abroad office, guest curating exhibits for the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology, becoming a member of the political science honor society Pi Sigma Alpha and Sigma Nu international fraternity, or working for the Boys and Girls Club—he learned something from them all.

Macotela sits on the back of an elephant in a flooded river.
After a summer in the Czech Republic, a semester in Thailand helped cement Macotela’s global wanderlust.

Yes, he admits, after seven-plus years of schooling at the community college and CSU level, he did feel himself running out of steam. But in the end, he not only reached his goal of finding a way to help others, he did it while “having some of the best experiences” of his life. 

“I don’t think I would have ended [my time at Chico State] the way I did without Study Abroad or some of the teachers I had,” he said. “I didn’t expect to experience everything I did, but I’ll never forget it.