I didn’t choose to study abroad in Spain because of any personal connection to the country. But after spending a month there, I’m seeing it in a new light and would love to go back. I went there with a small group of students from the business school, and we were in the same classes. Since we were all students from Purdue who met in a foreign country, we all became very close, and I’m still friends with them to this day.
Since I went on a short one-month trip in May, I didn’t need to learn any Spanish. However, not knowing the language was one of my biggest barriers and regrets while I was there. My classes were all in English, but I had some trouble when I went out to explore. I often used Google Translate and I had some friends who knew a little Spanish from high school who were able to help. However, when I went out in the rural areas, it was much harder for me to communicate with the people there. I’m glad I had my friends who helped me navigate my way through the trip.
I had one professor from Purdue and one professor from Spain who taught my classes. The class taught by my Purdue professor was similar in style to classes taught at Purdue, but I noticed that the structure of the class taught by my Spanish professor was more abstract. My Spanish professor would give lectures during class, and we didn’t have smaller assignments throughout the course; instead, we had one big exam at the end. With my Purdue classes, I know there are certain things I need to accomplish to get the grade I want at the end. But with my Spanish class, I had to learn through discussions. This structure was difficult for me to grasp since I’m not used to it. However, I was still able to connect with the professor despite the language and cultural barriers.
We were based in Madrid and traveled to Toledo, a beautiful historical site. I also went to Marbella with two other girls, and being able to get out of the city and go to beaches was a fun experience.
The biggest challenge I faced came during my first week in Spain: my phone was stolen. Instead of getting a new phone, I decided to treat the theft as an opportunity to step away from the digital world. I spent the next several weeks communicating with my family only through Zoom, which was difficult. Luckily, I was always with someone when I traveled. I couldn’t have done this without the group of business students I studied abroad with. This situation was a huge learning experience for me. It taught me to keep my mind open.
I would absolutely recommend a study abroad trip to other students. Yes, it’s possible to go abroad after college, but this is a unique experience during college that not everyone gets. Taking classes in a different country gives students so many new skills that are hard to get without studying and living in another country. I also have connections with people in a different part of the world, connections I wouldn’t have made without this trip.
For anyone thinking about studying abroad, I would advise them to make a list of things to see in a new country. It’s okay if you don’t see everything on the list, but it’s a good place to start. Doing research on the country can definitely help once you get there. I would also advise everyone to connect with people and keep in touch with them. You never know when those connections can be helpful. If I ever go back to Spain, I have people who would help me out if I needed a place to stay, and I’m truly grateful for these people.
I learned that I should take advantage of all opportunities, like being able to go on this study abroad trip. If you have a desire to put in the effort to succeed, I think you have the ability to do that because of the opportunities given.
For anyone who would like to learn more about the trip, here is a short vlog I made.