Katherine Else Allison - 2014 Program Participant

Plaza Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain during La Diada

Plaza Catalunya, Barcelona Spain during La Diada (The Catalan day of independence festival and celebration).

What made you decide to study abroad?

In today’s job market, many people have a major plus a foreign language, so to give myself an advantage I decided to study abroad. I love traveling and adventure, and there is no better way to combine enhancing your resume, improving your Spanish language acumen, and being able to travel and explore, than studying abroad! Being a Business major and Spanish minor, I decided to spend four months studying Business and Liberal Arts in Spain with IES Abroad.

Capri, Italy

Capri, Italy

Why did you select Spain for your study abroad program?

Since I am a Spanish minor, I knew I wanted to be in a Spanish speaking country. I chose Spain after asking a friend who lived in Europe and had visited almost every country, which her favorite was, she responded Spain. I decided what better way to finish my minor then to study in Barcelona and immerse myself in the language, meanwhile continuing to study my business major.

What were your housing arrangements like while studying in Barcelona?

While abroad, I did a homestay with an random roommate. My host mom had explained to us that she never picks students who know each other. I realized that not knowing anyone in my program, and not knowing my roommate reinforced the fact that I was removing myself from anything familiar or known, which to me was the whole point. This showed me what I truly was capable of, as well as who I really was when I lost all things I knew. I found out everything on my own, which is not something that can be learned but only experienced.

La Alhambra, Granada, Spain

La Alhambra, Granada Spain.

While in my homestay, my host mom spoke zero English. This was a struggle at times, but ended up being a blessing. My Spanish grew bountifully, my understanding and experiencing of culture came easily (and deliciously), and my experience was very authentic. I enjoyed the freedom granted to me, as my host mom’s only requirement was to tell her whether or not I was coming home for dinner. This allowed me to enjoy my independence and have no more restrictions than my fellow classmates, but ensured great conversation over home cooked meals, a warm hug greeting me at the door, and fresh clean clothes every week. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?

Ironically enough, the hardest part about my study abroad was the study part. In my program I faced the harsh reality of still attending classes and studying all day Mondays through Thursdays, but that is only because every minute stuck inside was a minute wasted in the country where people live outside. This was one of my favorite differences between Spain and the United States. Everyone in Barcelona walks outside, has pride in the city, and takes care of the beautiful sights, magnificent parks, and delicious tapas.

The only downside is that outside there is no Wifi. Without Wifi, you lose the ability to contact friends and or use maps/metro apps. My favorite part of the city also presents a challenge, and the two do not mix well. Upon returning to the United States, it was nice to have Internet, my own car, and the able to freely communicate anywhere.

A view of Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain

How has your experience studying abroad impacted your life? Would you recommend your IES program to others?

There is truly no better way to be completely found and understand your dreams, priorities, and abilities, other than to be completely lost. So take the chance, because if you’re anything like me, the only things you will regret are what you didn’t do. In my case, my biggest regret was to not study for a year, and only give myself 4 months for the best time of my life. So after studying abroad changed my life and ambition for the future, as well as my understanding of the world and myself, I would recommend studying abroad in an international program to everyone and anyone I could.

Did you experience any kind of reverse culture shock upon re-entry to the US?

The biggest challenge I faced returning was that my days were not as filled. When you aren’t jet setting off to a different country every weekend, casually strolling through historic sites and beautiful scenes, or staying up all night living your life to the fullest dancing under the lights, sitting on the beach till dawn; staying in, working, watching TV, and then meeting friends for a happy hour or meal at a time earlier than you are used to eating dinner tends to seem a tad lackluster. Although there were some disappointments and sadness in returning to America, like not being able to see my new friends, my study abroad experience was a gift that I could not ever imagine my life without.