Going abroad, while it may seem scary, is a great opportunity that allows you to step out of your comfort zone and explore the wonders that the world has to offer. I always knew from the beginning of my time here at Penn State that I wanted to go abroad. Since I had never had the opportunity to go to Europe I decided that this was my best chance to not only see one European city but many! While I was certain that I wanted to go abroad I did not know exactly where I desired to go. I started off thinking that Italy may be a good option for me (especially because I love Italian food) but then I got nervous since I had never taken any Italian language courses. Then I started to think about all the years of Spanish I have completed throughout the years and thought that maybe Spain would be a good option since I was already acquainted with the language. With all these uncertainties, I decided that I was going to need some help in making this major decision.
I decided to go into the Education Abroad Peer Advisor’s office. There I talked to various people not only about their individual abroad experiences, but that of their friends who had traveled to the places I was considering. They had nothing but good things to say about both Italy and Spain. The number one thing for me when choosing a place to study was that there were other Penn State students traveling there as well. At this point, I was traveling alone and wanted to know there would be some familiar faces to help with the transition. The peer advisors informed me that two of the most popular programs amongst Penn State students were those in Barcelona, Spain and Florence, Italy. That helped me narrow down my choices tremendously. With that information in mind I started to look into both programs and found myself leaning slightly toward Barcelona.
Next, I decided to attend the information session on studying abroad in Spain, led by Whitney Strickler who, at the time, was the advisor for Spain. Once Whitney spoke about Barcelona I was sold. Both the program and the city sounded incredible and I decided that was the ideal location for me. After this meeting, as an added bonus, I found out that a few people I knew were hoping to attend the same program which made me feel more comfortable with my decision.
Going abroad is something that I believe everyone should experience. You not only embrace in a new language and are forced to adapt to a new culture but you exit the realm of normalcy. Exploring a whole new city and country is one of the most exciting things that anyone can do. The way of life is so different in other countries that it is important to escape the bubble you set for yourself in the United States and expand as a person.
The decision to go abroad in Barcelona was one of the best things I have ever done. My classes were challenging yet gave me a more global understanding regarding the diverse cultures of Spain and that is something I will always take with me. In addition, it gave me the opportunity to meet people from other universities across the United States. I had roommates that attended various colleges all over the country whom I never would have met without this experience. Studying in a big city like Barcelona also made it very easy (and relatively cheap) to venture out of Spain and explore many other countries. I had the opportunity to travel throughout Spain as well as Germany, Czech Republic Portugal, France, Italy, Ireland, Morocco, and many more. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime and while I was a bit frightened to step out of my comfort zone, in the end it was so worth it. I will forever cherish the many memories and experiences that will remain in my heart along with so many others that being a student at Penn State has engraved in my mind. If studying abroad is on your bucket list I strongly encourage you to do so!