Traveling around Europe was not something Jennifer Dardon ever thought she would be able to do. First generation American and daughter
of Guatemalan immigrants, Dardon worked extremely hard to turn her dreams into reality. As a Manhattanville senior, majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology, Dardon had the opportunity to study abroad in London during the spring semester of 2017. The proud Valiant made many connections with different offices at Manhattanville College, such as the Center for Student Success and the Duchesne Center. These contacts gave her the opportunity to accept a part-time job as a Juvenile Justice Case Manager for the Future Leaders Program at WestHab.
Balancing her academic responsibilities with her part- time job wasn’t easy, but Dardon made it look like a piece of cake. She explained how working with young adults and guiding them towards the correct path has made her appreciate life more now than ever before.
“I love working with people at WestHab. Their adverse experiences have made them doubtful of their future, but it is gratifying to know I can be a part of a foundation and help rebuild their confidence,” said the psychology major. Dardon explained how being a part of someone else’s success story has made her look forward to going to work every day. She loves making a difference in other people’s lives and hopes that one day her participants are economically and socially independent.
“WestHab is a stepping stone for my career. I am grateful for all the opportunities I have been given and the chance to change lives,” said Dardon. Dardon has had a very unique adventure abroad. She was inspired to study in London after talking to her high school Spanish teacher who recommended she spend some time overseas. While applying to college, Dardon made sure that each school she applied to have a strong study abroad program. Picking the United Kingdom was an easy and exciting decision, for she has a history that traces all the way to England.
“As a first-generation American and college student, I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to afford the trip,” said Dardon anxiously, “I had three jobs during the summer just to save up money to study in London. My parents worked hard to make things happen for me and I am forever grateful for them.”
Dardon felt not only shocked but also thrilled when she arrived in her new home.
“When I got to London and saw the Palace of Westminster, that’s when it hit me. I knew everything was worth the hard work,” said Dardon. However, she struggled to get acclimated with the new city and the homesickness began to overwhelm her.
The University of Roehampton in London, where Dardon took classes, is a large institution with a myriad of programs Once getting acquainted with her new surroundings, Dardon began to love London. Many of her friends from London revealed to her an adage that she continues to remember today.
“Americans live to work,” they said, “but in London we work to live.”
While studying abroad, Dardon had the opportunity to travel to Paris, Dublin, Czech Republic, Madrid, Barcelona, and her very favorite fishing town Faro, Portugal.
“I loved traveling and having random conversations with people in the streets. Falling in love with other cultures and educating myself about the world was a wonderful experience. Studying abroad made me the woman I wanted to be.” said Dardon. Dardon’s special journey changed her life forever. Although she is graduating this semester, she will leave an indelible mark on the Manhattanville College community, for she is a new person thanks to the opportunities this institution has given her.
“I found love in London, not with someone but with myself and that was the greatest moment one could ever have.