Erasmo Ruiz - 2014 Program Participant

Triumphal Arc in Barcelona, Spain

Triumphal Arc, Barcelona, Spain

What inspired you to study abroad?

When the opportunity to study abroad presented itself through a generous scholarship donation from the Alba Study Abroad Program, I took up the opportunity with conviction, packed my bags, and traveled across the world to a country I knew would challenge everything I thought I knew about the world. My mission in studying abroad was to gain the much needed global perspective, intercultural literacy, worldliness, and Spanish language fluency that many employers in the workforce value. Basically, I wanted to have a competitive edge and upper hand in my job search endeavors. But apart from all of this I was also curious about the world, the different existing societies, languages, and customs. I had always been fascinated with these variables.

Furthermore, I decided to study abroad because it aligned with my future career aspirations of being a study abroad adviser in higher education. I realized that my experiences abroad would enrich and help inform my future professional practice in the realm of education, while correspondingly allowing me to be more effective in my future interactions with students wanting to live and study abroad.

Why did you choose ALBA for your international program?

I chose the Alba Study Abroad Program because they offered a great selection of courses and financial assistance to their prospective students. I was likewise attracted to the program because they had classes that were taught by distinguished and renowned faculty from Barcelona, as well as small classes, which I knew would be beneficial for establishing meaningful relationships with professors and ultimately using these connections and networks to achieve certain goals and aspirations. Also, I had heard so many wonderful stories from former students chronicling the transformative learning they had experienced, in additional to how much cultural and social capital they had acquired from the Alba Study Abroad Program professors and administrators.

Barcelona Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona Cathedral, Barcelona, Spain

What was your favorite part about Barcelona?

My favorite part of the Alba location was that it was central to many famous monuments, local attractions, and the Boqueria Mercado. I was within walking distance of the Picasso Museum (which continues to be free of cost to all students). Also, I was only a 10-minute walk to the Mediterranean Sea, near exquisite Catalan/Spanish cuisine, multiple coffee shops, quaint Romanesque alleys, gothic/medieval infrastructure, and a multitude of ethnic and racial diversity.

What distinguishes ALBA from other study abroad program providers?

The local Alba staff took us on many excursions outside of Barcelona at their cost. They tried very hard to immerse us in the culture, cuisine, and languages of the city of Barcelona. I recall traveling to a small town outside of Barcelona called Rupit. That experience in itself was very eye-opening, as their way of living and scenery were completely different from cosmopolitan Barcelona.

Overall I believe that Alba's seminar and contextually oriented learning environments are what distinguish it from other programs. The small cohesive classroom experience was not something that I would have ever experienced at my home university, being that it was and continues to be a large urban research university in the heart of a major city. Lastly, most classes were taught only three days per week, so as students we had opportunities to travel to other European nations during the weekends, and still make back on time for early Monday classes.

How supportive was local staff throughout your program?

The Alba program also had many partnerships with local agencies and organizations in the city of Barcelona, which was great because they encouraged students to do volunteer work/service-learning in the community to enrich their experiences living, studying/learning abroad. The Alba faculty and staff likewise shared knowledge of resources that were available in the city, such as free Spanish and Catalan language classes which were taught free of cost by the local municipality. They were very receptive to student needs, and communication between administration, faculty, and students was exceptional.

Big Ben Clock Tower in London, England

Big Ben Clock Tower, London, England, United Kingdom

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

One thing I would have done differently is probably staying abroad longer (which was an option). I would have loved staying in Barcelona for at least one more academic term. Also, I wish I would have done more traveling throughout Spain and other countries in Eastern Europe. Learning the Catalan language more fluently would also have been beneficial.

What was a typical day like for you in Barcelona?

For me a day in Barcelona and the Alba Study Abroad Program consisted of waking up around 9 a.m. (Monday thru Thursday), walking one mile to class, picking up a coffee with milk from the café on the first floor of the Alba campus, attending class, and during class taking field trips around the city with the professor and classmates, where we would get first-hand exposure to the material we were learning in class. I really appreciated the contextually oriented nature of the classroom curriculum that Alba created for its students in order to maximize their understanding of course material and assignments.

My day would normally end around 5 p.m., during which time I would walk to the beach and lay on the sand for a few hours to read a book for class and engage in some homework, all while taking in some rays of sunshine.

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?

My favorite day to day activity outside of my program was to spend time at the Ciutadella Park, which was relatively close to the Alba campus. The park is a beautiful renovated 19th-century military fortress with impressive European architecture. Moreover, I would also spend a lot of time people watching, doing assignments for my urban planning course at the Triumphal Arc.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

What type of accommodation did you have in Barcelona?

I did a homestay with a local Chilean/Spanish/Catalan family. It was an amazing experience, as I had the best of three cultures and two continents all under one roof. I had my own bedroom in a modern high rise apartment building. I never felt lonely, as the family would check-in with me daily. There was a lot of structure, which I really appreciated, especially as a young university student with very little experience living abroad. My hosts also provided meals, on-site laundry, and familial support.

How has studying abroad in Barcelona changed your life?

Now that I am back home in Portland, Oregon, my experience abroad has enabled me to see the world and society from a whole different lens/perspective. Furthermore, it has made me realize where I truly want to spend the rest of my life, and similarly encouraged me to pursue in full force a career in student services. My experiences in Europe have opened my eyes, and likewise helped me realize that there is much more to the world than I once believed. Learning, studying, and traveling abroad are life-long commitments. This experience abroad has also made me more culturally aware/competent and motivated me to learn more about other cultures and languages. Needless to say this experience likewise inspired my decision to teach English abroad.