Spring 2020: Brenden Perez

Following the spring 2020 semester, we reached out to students whose semesters were cut short due to the pandemic. We asked them what they miss about study abroad. While their study abroad programs were and forever will be unique, they were still able to get a lot out of their experiences.

  1. Why did you choose your specific program?

During my sophomore year I was enrolled in HISP-S 326 in which our final project was to research IU Spanish study abroad programs. I ended up presenting on Madrid-IU; thus, learning a lot about it. However, in my third year of high school I actually met a girl at my school in Northwest Indiana who was studying there from Madrid. I am still friends with her to this day and we hung out as soon as I made it to Spain. I am Mexican-American but have never been truly exposed to the Spanish language. This program allowed me to immerse myself in the Spanish language with a host family, take my classes in Spanish, provided us with language exchange partners, and many more opportunities to enhance our Spanish skills and cultural knowledge. It was also IU’s year for the program to have a staff member from IU in Madrid with us!

  1. What is something that you got out of the program academically?

Through the Madrid-IU program I was able to complete my Spanish minor. Not only was I able to obtain my minor, but I also increased my proficiency in Spanish and Spanish culture which will both help me professionally in the future.

  1. What is something you got out of the program personally?

I have always struggled with my anxiety. To be honest, I was never even planning to attend college due to how debilitating my anxiety used to be. But, this program showed me that I can travel across the world by myself and do just fine. While on the program, I somehow discovered what self-love actually feels like, what it means to be truly proud of myself, and experience the greatest happiness that I have ever felt in my entire life. Yes, I know, I am only 21 years old. But through this program I have made lifelong friends from the US, Spain, France, and Germany. I lived with other students from around the world, my Spanish has improved a ton, I am so much stronger mentally, I have gained self confidence and an improved self esteem, and I have undertaken what many consider a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” I have personally gotten more out of this program than I can put into words. In short, our program may have ended very quickly, but I am thankful for each moment I got to spend in this place that has become my 2nd home 4,500 miles away. My experience in Madrid was what I fantasized and hoped my entire four years at college would feel like, pure happiness and growth.

  1. What would you say to someone who is considering study abroad during their time at IU?

I would say to go for it and plan accordingly. Save up as much as you can, look at scholarships, but also know that there are tons of options for scholarships and other funding opportunities. Ask yourself why you want to study abroad and why you would choose a certain location/program. I would also want them to know that homesickness and doubt are very normal and are not talked about enough. But, almost everybody goes through those really rough parts about study abroad, but the fact that so many people don’t mention it is because it truly is a small part of the overall experience in the end!

Overall, go for it if you can! There are SOOOO MANY PROGRAMS and it is a life changing experience that nobody can explain, but one has to experience it in order to understand it.

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