I always knew I wanted to study abroad, and I didn’t just do it to complete my degree requirement of a semester abroad, I did it because I felt there was something out there for me. I am a junior, with a double major in international business and marketing and I will graduate in 2024.
I studied abroad in the fall of 2022 in Sevilla, Spain and it has now become my second home. The memories I have, the people I met, and all of the places I saw will forever be nostalgic. Not only did I experience living in a different country, but I also saw the beauty of the different cultures surrounding each country in Europe. As a first- generation Hispanic student, I dreamed about having the opportunity to study abroad across the world, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity Valpo gave me and how easy the process went for me.
A picture of me in Plaza de España
I remember the day I had to leave, I did not feel nervous or anxious, I was leaving my comfort zone and my family (I’m a commuter and I have never been away from home,) yet I was overwhelmed with excitement about this new journey. I got on a plane by myself, and left to a country where I knew absolutely no one. I learned how to be independent and I came back with so much more confidence. I experienced so much culture shock, from languages, to the way people live, the food and the overall school experience. I mean, how often will you see an American studenthop on the metro with their carry-on luggage to class on a Friday because they’re traveling to a different country that weekend and heading to the airport right after classes? Most likely, never. However, I was able to quickly adapt and immerse myself into the beautiful Andalusian culture. I became accustomed to seeing horse-carriages outside, a 30-minute walk became the norm for me, as did seeing women dancing Flamenco in every corner, and siesta time (my favorite).
Spanish people prioritize socializing with others, which is why from 2-5 p.m., you will see all the locals having tapas at the bars with a glass of wine in their hand. I realized how much of a work/life balance there is in Europe, something that I believe does not exist here in the U.S.
Setas de Sevilla Horse Carriages
It was also fairly cost-efficient to travel, so I visited seven other countries to broaden my horizons. Basically, here is how some of my weeks would go in Spain: I would go to class from Monday through Thursday (no one had class on Fridays), and from Friday to Sunday, I would spend my time in another country with my roommates. I was privileged enough to visit: France, Italy, Vatican City, Portugal, the U.K., Belgium, and the Netherlands. Each and every one had so much beautiful history and I loved trying my best to learn certain phrases from each country. I also traveled to many parts of Spain, like Ibiza, Barcelona, and many of the southern regions that border Seville.
You might think that I traveled more than I went to class, but that is not entirely true. I took four courses: International Business, International Marketing, International Economics, and my favorite, Food & Wine in Spain, which was my only class in Spanish. I learned so much about the gastronomy in Spain, like Iberian ham being extremely popular (and good) and, of course, I learned how to make Spain’s most famous dish, Paella!
The lovely culture of wine with every meal, and how religions have impacted the gastronomy in Andalusia. I also had a better understanding of what was going on with the current Ukraine/Russian War. We always talked about it in my IB class, and now I know how companies market themselves differently depending on the country they are in. I also participated in a 10k marathon with over 20,000 other people. Studying in another country really opened my eyes and made me realize how much we, as Americans, don’t talk about certain topics or how little knowledge we have of other cultures.
10K Marathon Oranges on every tree
Studying abroad helps you understand and appreciate different cultures, it broadens perspectives and it teaches you new ways to measure quality of life. I truly believe that every person should have the opportunity to study abroad because it changes you. It makes you a better person and a better qualified person in a pool of applicants when applying for jobs. I will end this blog with a famous quote from Saint Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”