John Flo - 2017 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad? 

The love of learning and the appreciation of a global economy are what motivated me to go abroad! I also believe that the most effective way to learn about oneself is through experiencing other people and places. Learning to appreciate diversity and discovering how your unique gifts can be used to help others is just one of the amazing benefits of traveling abroad. 

Tourists at Bolsa de Madrid
Bolsa de Madrid

Why did you choose Beacon Fellowship for Business?

I committed to Beacon due to the recommendation of a close friend. She emphasized that the program was designed for high character individuals, and she knew the fellowship director personally. Despite the innumerable fellowships to choose from, I chose Beacon because I believe the success of a program is often determined by the character of the participants. Trusting my friend was a great decision, because the other fellows contributed as much, if not more, to the entire experience as did the professional exposure. 

What was your favorite part about Madrid?

My favorite part about Madrid was how quickly you can escape from the crowds. The residential areas are incredibly charming and offer a very authentic experience! I recommend signing up with Show Around to meet a friendly local and explore the less explored parts of town!

What made your experience abroad unique?

I really enjoyed getting to know a local graduate student. Interacting with him allowed for me to gain insight into how the Spanish think--both about themselves and about Americans. Gaining this unofficial perspective was very valuable and complemented the professional perspective, which I received through the fellowship.

Museo de la Catedral de la Almudena in Madrid, Spain
View from the balcony of the Museo de la Catedral de la Almudena

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff arranged housing, some meals, cultural submersion activities, and set up meetings with local professionals. We met every day for breakfast, which was a great opportunity to share experiences, plan for the day, and learn more about one another. The staff did a phenomenal job at making sure that all the fellows bonded. Learning each fellow’s unique interests opened doors for new adventures, which I certainly would not have sought out on my own! 

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

I wish I would have done something that one of the other fellows mentioned she always does before exploring a new city—read about the significant authors, artists, scientists, and politicians from that city. This would have laid a better foundation for the character and history of the city, and allowed me to appreciate more of the city’s culture. 

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

All the fellows start a typical day by sharing breakfast together. During this time, fellows share experiences, recommend activities for the day, and get to know one another. After breakfast, the fellows either take off for work or to explore the city. On certain days, all the fellows enjoy a cultural immersion activity for part of the day. Fellows typically do some city exploring after work, since dinner doesn’t start until around 9 p.m. After exploring a new part of town, someone usually looks up a good local place for dinner. Drinks or bed follow shortly after. 

View from the top of the Chamber of Commerce looking at la Puerta de Alcalá, Spain
View from the top of the Chamber of Commerce looking at la Puerta de Alcalá

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

If you go to Madrid, you must seek out authentic dining and live music! I thoroughly enjoyed paella and recommend Thursday night for music enthusiasts. Become friends with local students early on in the week and make sure to explore the nightlife with them toward the end of the week!

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

All of the fellows stayed in the Hotel Principe Pio, which is located right next to the Palacio Real de Madrid! It is ideally located for exploring the touristy parts of town as well as the quieter neighborhoods. Spend a day or two walking in each direction from the hotel and you'll find dramatically different, yet equally wonderful, experiences!

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Beacon is intended for high character, high performing students who love adventure. There is a lot of autonomy and students need to demonstrate a certain level of responsibility before jumping into this program.

Couple eating churros with hot chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines in central Madrid
Make sure to try churros and hot chocolate from la Chocolateria San Gines

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

Spending time abroad always makes me appreciate home, while at the same time feeds my enthusiasm for traveling. Once you experience a foreign culture, it's hard to imagine pursuing a career that does not include opportunity for a diverse cultural experience. Now that I'm home, I look forward to pursuing my career with a more global perspective. I'm very excited to develop the relationships that were created during Beacon--both domestically and internationally--and seeing where these relationships take me!

Would you recommend Beacon Fellowship for Business others? Why?

Absolutely! To clarify, I'd recommend Beacon to students that demonstrate high character, a love of learning, and a responsibly adventurous spirit. This fellowship expands the mind by immersing students in a foreign culture while surrounded by successful professionals and ambitious students. The combination of these elements truly elevates participants' ability to flourish in any environment!