Anita studied on the IES: Barcelona, Liberal Arts & Business Program in Spring 2016.
If you could give only one reason, why would you suggest other students study abroad?
Students should study abroad because it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows you to see the world. You have the opportunity to live, not just visit, in a country and learn about its customs, history, traditions and so much more, while continuing your education. You also have the chance to see places, museums and landmarks that you may have only seen on a screen. This is something that few people have the chance to do, but if you have the opportunity, studying abroad is not something you should miss out on.
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
If I could go abroad again, I would probably travel less. Traveling to other countries was very cheap in Europe, and I went almost every weekend, but I wish I haven’t. I choose to study abroad in Barcelona because I wanted to learn about its customs and practice Spanish, and by traveling, I had less of an opportunity to do that. I would have split my time better with traveling and exploring Barcelona.
What specific factors influenced your decision to go abroad?
I have always wanted to study abroad because I love traveling and learning about different cultures. Specially, I wanted to go a Spanish-speaking country so I could practice my Spanish for my minor.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
I was worried about culture shock and not understanding the language. I have never been to Spain so I had no idea what to expect, besides what I read in books and online, so I was nervous about adjusting to the culture, but my host mom was really open to telling me about what to do, and I eventually saw the similarities and differences between US and Spanish culture. By simply opening myself up to trying new things, I adjusted and didn’t experience culture shock. I also knew that they spoke a lot of Catalan there, so I thought my Spanish would be useless there, but it was a nice balance between the two, which made my experience better.
What was it about your program specifically that fit your personal goals over other programs?
I liked that there were a variety of classes that allowed me to learn about different aspects of the Spanish culture. There were classes from travel writing, to food and expression, to movies, to music, and so much more. I also loved the opportunity of taking classes at local universities to meet other students. This program allowed me to live in a city, which I want to do in my future and it also helped me practice my Spanish with learning a mix of Spanish and Catalan culture.
How have you used the skills you learned abroad now that you are back; either in job searching, or in other activities?
My Spanish greatly improved when I was abroad because my host family would only talk to me in Spanish and every time I went out to places, I would talk in Spanish. This helped me to be more confident with my Spanish because I would be more willing to talk to people that spoke Spanish in the US since I actually knew what was going on in the conversation.
Did you participate in any service projects while on your program? How did that enhance your study abroad experience?
I did participate in a translation class where native speakers would help US students with their Spanish and the students studying abroad will help the other students with their English. This was a lot of fun because I got to meet people I never thought I would and it was a great feeling knowing that I helped them with English.
What experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have had if you had stayed at Penn State?
The friendships and connections I had with native people in Barcelona as well as other college students was amazing. Everyone was very friendly and open, and I think if I stayed at Penn State, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to truly stay friends and connected with people as if I went abroad because people tend to hang out in groups here. I got to experience a whole new culture when I went abroad.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
Be open-minded and try new things. You’re going to a new place, and yes, it’s going to be scary at first, but you can’t let that ruin your entire trip. There are amazing people to meet and unimaginable things to see in the world, and you can’t let fear hold you down from a lifetime experience.
Share an experience where you interacted with someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something.
I was taking a class at a local university and befriended another exchange student there, but she was from China. We had a conversation about why we decided to study abroad and why we choose Barcelona, and she was telling me about how she left her family in China to get a good education and they basically gave everything to her so she could learn. I was blown away because I realized how blessed and lucky I was to have the opportunity to study abroad while in college. It was amazing to me to learn why people travel and how lucky we are to be able to do that.