Cindy Mergen - 2009 Program Participant

Cindy is an inherent adventure seeker, born and raised in the Ozark Mountains. Her passion for travel has developed through studying, working, and traveling abroad during and after college, and then teaching Spanish at her alma mater. Her experience with ISEP in Spain has led to priceless experiences in her life, and she now works in the field of international education.

Cindy with some of my friends from the ISEP program at an end-of-semester party on the Universidad de Murcia campus
Cindy with some of my friends from the ISEP program at an end-of-semester party on the Universidad de Murcia campus.

Why did you choose to study abroad? Why Spain?

I decided to study abroad mainly to improve my Spanish language skills and to take advantage of how cheap traveling is as a student. I chose Spain because I was a Spanish major and wanted to learn “traditional” Spanish rather than the newer, ever-changing Spanish in Central and South America.

What made you choose ISEP as your provider?

The Study Away office at Missouri State had a long-standing relationship with the program, and it was easy to transfer my credits. I loved Murcia’s location—just an hour from the Mediterranean! Also, Murcia is not as touristy as other popular study abroad destinations like Granada or Madrid, so I felt like I would get a more authentic experience.

You’re from Springfield, Missouri, what advice would you give to other people from the midwest going to study in Spain? 

Strangers will either be overly nice to you like in the Midwest, or they will treat you like you’re carrying an infectious disease. Don’t take it personally—just share that Midwestern kindness and it will come back to you!

What was the biggest challenge you faced while abroad?

I was only 19 at the time and pretty shy, so it was a constant challenge to step outside of my comfort zone and make friends outside of other American program participants. Those friendships are REALLY strong and I’m so thankful for my American buddies abroad, but I always wished I would have tried harder to make more friends from Murcia too.

What are the top reasons you'd want to go back to Spain?

The laid-back lifestyle (siesta!), the easy access to travel the rest of Europe, and the tapas.

How has your experience studying abroad helped you grow personally and professionally?

It’s impossible to say all the ways studying abroad helped me flourish! I learned life skills like budgeting, traveling on my own, careful decision making, and how to make a killer tortilla española. Professionally, studying abroad skyrocketed my Spanish language skills, which helped me to be a better and more authentic Spanish teacher.

Would you recommend the ISEP program to others?

Yes, I would! They give you great guidance throughout the entire planning process as well as English-speaking, in-country support the entire time. I’m still in touch with my advisor from Murcia!

Did you experience reverse culture shock upon re-entry?

I most definitely experienced reverse culture shock in all the typical ways: not being able to explain my experiences to my friends back home, missing my study abroad friends, wishing American culture were more like Spanish culture, and pining for the smell of the warm Mediterranean air…I always said that returning home felt like waking up from a really long, sweet dream that you never wanted to end.