Andrea Acosta - 2013 Program Participant

Santiago Bernabeu in Spain for Real Madrid match

Real Madrid: At the Santiago Bernabeu for a Real Madrid match.

Why did you choose study in Madrid?

I chose to study abroad in Madrid, Spain because I am a native Spanish speaker and wanted to practice my Spanish since I don’t get to do that often in the United States. I thought going to Europe would be a great way to travel around to different countries and cultures.

Why did you select IES Abroad over other organizations?

The reason I decided to study abroad with IES is because the program was a fully-immersive experience and offered everything that I would ever need from a study abroad program. All of the aspects of the program like living situation, academic help, activities, etc., were coordinated and easy to accommodate. IES also offers the program to students nationwide, so I loved the idea that I would be studying abroad with not only with students from Michigan, but also students from across the United States. I think it really enhanced my experience that I got to meet so many other people from other universities. IES also did a wonderful job in planning activities and field trips that would teach us about the history and culture of Madrid and all of Spain.

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany during Semana Santa

Berlin: At the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin during Semana Santa.

What made you study abroad experience unforgettable?

There were a number of things that made my study abroad experience unforgettable, but I would definitely say that two things top my list: all of the different people I met, from fellow IES Abroad students, to Spanish locals, to locals in other places I traveled to, and the ability to see a little bit of the world by being in such a centered location. All of the people I met really taught me about all of the different perspectives of this world, and it opened my eyes to how much I can learn from people of different cultures and backgrounds.

In addition, because I lived in Madrid, it gave me the opportunity to travel across Europe to places that I never even dreamed of visiting. It was amazing to travel and see all of the different sights and even to walk on the small and hidden streets of each city to get a sense of what is out there besides what I know in the United States.

What were your housing arrangements like in Madrid?

I lived in the dorms and interacted with Spanish university students a lot. It made me feel like I was just another college student attending the local university in the way that they were. Of course, there were some differences in the culture from the people I interacted with, but I came to appreciate the laid-back living style of the Spanish.

What was the most memorable experience you had while studying abroad?

My most memorable experience was traveling to five different cities during Semana Santa, which is a religious holiday in Spain where you get the whole week off from school. I went to Brussels, Bruges, Berlin, Prague, and Amsterdam. It was amazing that I could travel to all of these new places and learn a little bit from each culture in the span of a week.

Belgian Waffles in Brussels, Belgium

Waffles: Belgian Waffles in Brussels.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in Spain?

The biggest challenge for me was getting homesick a couple of times. When I would see pictures of my friends at my home university in the United States, I would get a little sad. But as soon as I realized I was living in Europe for a whole semester, meeting new people and going to new places, it made it all better!