Additional Programs: Madrid-IU, Spring 2013
Why did you choose this program? I wanted to experience life in Europe in the context of a large city and a smaller one. I chose to go to the booming Madrid and the quaint Aix because I felt that with those two locations I could experience many of the joys in the metropolitan and provincial context.
Describe your favorite class(es) abroad. My favorite class was Anthropology of European Societies. I look this class in France and the young professor was very interested in my progress and my ability to understand and develop along with the other students. I also made some amazing friends in this class. I know that I would need native ears to survive and so I quickly forced myself into an existing friend group. It put me out of my comfort zone but was incredibly rewarding in countless ways.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? In Madrid I lived in a very bohemian apartment overlooking the major commercial center, La Plaza de Callao. It was so alive and I always had something to do. In Aix I lived with two French girls in a house that was very traditionally French. We had an olive tree in the back yard and a croque-monsieur iron press that dated back to the 1920s.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Say yes. Say yes to going and say yes to (within legal and moral reason) every opportunity that the adventure presents to you. Look on the bright side of every day. If you need to stay at home and watch an episode one day that is fine - but make the rest of the week count and do not get caught in a rut of peanut butter eating and lounging.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? Hiking to the top of Mt. Saint Victoire with some French friends was pretty amazing.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? I did not like the French at first. I thought they were cold and snobby. This was my culture shock. However, I quickly fell in love with them and plan on relocating at the end of my senior year. I already knew the Spanish from participating in IU-honors in high school but I was still surprised by their candid nature in conversation.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock was devastating. I am still getting over it. I have found one successful remedy which is being back in Europe.
“If I could do it over, I would…” have petitioned to spend the entire year in Madrid. A year is much better than a semester.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? I had no idea how freeing the experience would be. I was able to express myself and try out new and culturally rich things.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? I wish someone had warned me about the vampire-like Europeans that would try and speak English with me. If you explain you need/desire to practice people are generally understanding. But they will try.
What was your greatest challenge? One challenge was staying focused on the language. I knew that on my bad days it was even more important to stay focused on the language and the cultural exposure.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” In terms of "bang for the buck" factor it makes a lot more sense to study abroad. I also think that when you take full advantage of your time abroad you will easily learn more about your subject of interest and yourself than you could ever possibly learn from staying on campus.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? I received the Gillman International Experience Award for study abroad. This was a huge addition to my budget and gave me the wiggle room to not lose sleep about money. Scholarships are as varied as programs so it does take a little proactivity and self motivation to find the ones that work for you.