Reason you chose this program: I chose the Madrid-IU, Spain program because I was looking for an immersive Spanish language and cultural experience. I was able to satisfy course requirements for both my International Studies and Spanish majors, which was appealing. This program was also more cost-effective for me, being a Twenty First Century Scholar, because the cost of attendance was comparable to IU's. The Madrid-IU, Spain program offered everything I was looking for. It helped that I spoke to several peer counselors who were alumni of that program!
Favorite class: I loved my Spanish culture class! I was taught by a local professor in Spanish and got to hear his personal experience regarding a lot of the topics we studied. My professor was awesome and extremely knowledgeable! In this class, I got to learn about Spain's ancient to modern day history. It was useful to learn more about the country I was living in because it helped me understand why the country is the way it is and runs the way it does. I also got to take a few class field trips to local museums to learn first hand about the topics we studied in class.
Housing situation: For the first month of my program, I was assigned a host family. I lived with a Spanish host mom and two American exchange students who were my host sisters. I loved that experience because I got to practice Spanish at home daily and always had an authentic Spanish dinner. I learned a lot about the culture that way. For the next five months, I lived in an apartment; I had to find my own. This was challenging, but great because I got to choose exactly where and with whom I wanted to live. I still keep in contact with my roommates and host family. I got to experience the best of both by living with a host family and in a shared apartment!
Best memory: My best memory...I can't choose one! I would say the best part was the people I met and the memories I made with them. I became best friends with people from around the US who were on my program. I also made friends with Spanish students and other international students at my university and can't wait to visit them again! I had no idea I would build such a strong friendship with my Spanish roommate before going abroad, but I did. He visited my family for a week over Thanksgiving Break. Be open to making friends, because you never know who could be visiting you this time next year.
Advice to future study abroad participants: Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Be open to change and trying new things. You will only regret not trying them. Be understanding, flexible, and excited to meet new people. Laugh off the misunderstandings especially if you are studying in a foreign language. Take your studies seriously, but also travel and expose yourself to other cultures. GET EXCITED!
Biggest surprise: The biggest surprise of studying and living in Madrid was how important the metro is and how social people are. I love that the metro is such a useful method of transportation. I could get anywhere in the city by taking the metro. (It is also a very walkable city). I love how accommodating Spaniards are to foreigners. They are willing to help give directions and share their favorite spots to eat at. I adapted well to the Spanish schedule because things start later and socializing with friends and family over meals is prioritized there.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock: I did not experience much culture shock. Rather, it was reverse culture shock that got me. I adapted so well to Spanish culture and life that it was difficult for me to adjust back to my life in the US. I missed Spain, my friends there, and my life there in general. In time, those feelings lessened and I adjusted back to US life. Working as a peer counselor has helped me so much with dealing with reverse culture shock.
If I could do it over again I would: Do it exactly the same. I would not change anything. If the stars aligned and I could slow down time, I would do that. I'd like to drag out the days and nights because of how much fun I had. I made the most of my experience!
What do you know now that you didn't know before going abroad? I did not know how much the air pollution would affect my health. I was sick a few times with colds and sore throats partially due to the pollution. There is not much that you can do to prevent that other than eating healthy foods, resting, and washing your hands.
What do you wish someone told you before you left? I wish someone would have warned me about how strong reverse culture shock can be. I definitely struggled with it for a few months. I still think about Spain every day and cannot wait to go back.
Your greatest challange: My greatest challenge was constantly using my Spanish skills. It was exhausting at times trying to use my second language for everything. I had to apartment search for the first time in Spanish, take all of my classes in Spanish, make friends in Spanish, and have daily interactions in Spanish. With that said, it was also one of the most rewarding aspects of my study abroad experience. I improved my Spanish skills beyond belief and gained so much confidence.
Discuss "going abroad vs. staying on campus": Going abroad is amazing! You gain more real world experience and grow more as a person than you would if you stayed on campus all four years. Going abroad gives you useful transferable skills such as flexibility, adaptability, problem solving skills, and cultural understanding. Going abroad takes what you've learned in the classroom to the next level. It is worth it!
What fact about your host country would people be surprised to learn? Spaniards are more blunt than you'd expect. When they tell you something that comes off as rude, they don't mean it in that way. Rather, they talk frankly because they care about you and want to help you. They do not hide their opinions by using euphemisms. That's okay. You get used to it!
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I used my Twenty First Century Scholarship to help cover my program fees. I also used student loans, worked summer jobs, and asked for family support to help cover other costs. I applied for the Hutton International Experience grant for a different program abroad so I could not apply for that one again.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? I would tell students to look into the Hutton International Experience Grant for assistance. They do not have to be a part of the Honors College to receive that scholarship. I would also tell students to look at the program specific scholarships offered, departmental scholarships, and cosponsoring organization's scholarship opportunities. If they have any more questions, I would direct them to our website or our office. There is a lot of money out there to help fund study abroad so take advantage of it!