Claire at Cordoba Bridge
Overseas Study Program
Claire's majors: Spanish and Political Science
Year abroad: Academic Year 2010-11
Reason you chose this program: I wanted to dramatically improve my level of Spanish, and I thought Spain would be a good jumping point into exploring the rest of Europe. Additionally, all of my scholarships applied since it was an IU-administered program.
Favorite classes: La Mujer en la Literatura Española (Women in Spanish Literatura), Cine Español (Spanish Cinema)
Housing situation: When we arrived, we had two weeks in a dorm, during which time we had to search for a more permanent place to live. I found a (tiny) apartment with two Spanish girls, around the age of 27 or 28, and one of them’s cat. Both girls were still in college. The neighborhood was quiet, populated mostly by babies and senior citizens, so it was very safe.
Advice to Future Study Abroad Participants: I would say to spend less time on Facebook. Stalking all the people at home not only exposes you to whole lot of unnecessary English, but it also makes you dwell on what people at home are doing. You’re in Spain, get out of the house!
Best Memory: Showing my friends and family who came to visit me during my time in Madrid around the city. It was really rewarding to be able to show them everything I’d been experiencing and doing in the past months; I didn’t realize how much I had learned until I was with my friends who knew next to nothing about Spain. And just a few months ago, that was me! It was so good to see them again and to be able to share something so special with the people closest to me.
Biggest Surprise: People always talk about “Spanish time,” about how everyone arrives late and no one cares about deadlines as much as in the US. I was looking forward to living in a place where people were more forgiving of my sometimes lax habits. But no, all of my professors arrived on time every class period and were very serious about deadlines for projects.
Complete this sentence: If I could do it over, I would… not use “studying” as an excuse not to experience things around the city. With exams several weeks away, I decided that I couldn’t leave my room until I felt prepared… I missed doing all sorts of things with my friends. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of studying (you are going abroad as a student, after all), but your time out experiencing the culture is an important facet of your learning experience.
What you know now that you didn’t know before going abroad: I didn’t know how resourceful I could be. Traveling through three different countries by myself, finding my own apartment when I barely spoke the language, and just generally solving problems in an unknown environment taught me that there’s a way to get through just about anything. I also now realize that the world is a much bigger place than I ever imagined it to be, and that I want to see as many places as I can.
Greatest Challenge: Trying to make real friendships. It can be very difficult when you don’t really understand everything that they’re saying… and there are so many subtle cultural differences that it can be easy to go out of your mind worrying whether you’re doing or saying something wrong. Most people are very kind and understanding, though.
Going abroad versus staying on campus, discuss: Study abroad is an opportunity you rarely get in life: to see the world from a completely different point of view. Later in life you may be tied down with a job, family, house… things you can’t easily pick up and leave. You’re only young once. Make the most of it!