Kerianne Baylor is a curious world wanderer, a professional note-taker, and a lover of languages, people, journals, and random dancing. She’s also obsessed with maps.Interviewed on - 14 November 2014
Out of all the Spanish cities, why did you choose to study abroad in Madrid?
My sights were always set on Spain. In high school, my AP Spanish teacher got me hooked on seeing it for myself. Choosing a college was centered around study abroad options, but I never put much more thought into which Spanish city I'd like to be in. Madrid fell into my lap because of its program options, and I was attracted to living in a big, capital city full of excitement.
Why did you choose API specifically?
I chose API because they had everything I wanted: course selection, Resident Director support, included excursions, host families, and an internship option. Once I clicked through API's website to find so many opportunities abroad, I was hooked. And then I applied to be an API blogger!
What was your living situation like in Madrid?
I lived with a host family in the heart of Madrid. My housing worked out perfectly and my host parents were friendly, entertaining, and genuine. Living with a Spanish family allowed me to learn more about life in Madrid and to be closer to the Spanish culture. My host mom showed me to Templo de Debod on her nightly walks to see the sun set over Madrid. I'll never forget how hilarious she is when she sends me texts on What'sApp. And how bittersweet it is when she sends me pictures of sunsets on our street.
What was a normal day like as an API participant in Madrid?
It depended on the semester, but I usually had jam-packed days especially in the spring. I was interning with a Spanish company that owned three hostels around the city, as well as taking classes. My mornings began with either muesli or digestive cookies (both surprisingly better than they sound) and a ten-minute walk through the infamous, breathtaking Plaza Mayor to the hostel I interned at near the Tirso de Molina metro stop. I would intern until around lunch time, which, depending on how hungry my co-workers were, at 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. (They would know that I was hungry when I started snacking on pipas, sunflower seeds, at around 12:00 p.m.).
Then, I would make my way toward Suffolk University on the metro to prepare for my afternoon and night classes. When I returned to my host family, we would have a late dinner at 10:00 p.m., which truly feels like your day is extended. Then I would enjoy meeting up with friends to go bar-hopping or to a Spanish club (Sala Copérnico rules).
What was the most memorable experience you had abroad?
That time I cried during the Flamenco show on our excursion to Sevilla (and then devoured delicious tapas at El Rinconcillo). It was pure beauty.
What advice would you give to other students studying abroad in Madrid with API?
Explore the city! Madrid has SO many neighborhoods with unique characteristics. I would recommend not following the crowd. Because Madrid is a big capital city, there are lots of ex-pat bars and clubs geared towards Americans, but there are also more bars than people, so definitely venture to the local places where you can dance and mingle with Spaniards.
What are the top reasons you'd return to Madrid?
I'd want to study more of the city, history, and art. Madrid has the 'Golden Triangle' of museums: Prado Museum, Reina Sofía Museum, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It also has many festival celebrations, including a week-long festival for San Isidro, the patron saint of the city. I'd return back to Madrid to live in it once again, and focus on learning outside of the classroom. At Suffolk, I took a class titled 'Madrid: A Cosmopolitan City' in which our textbook detailed the history of Madrid, and each class was a tour of the city beginning with the old city walls and working out way to the newer Four Towers business area. We visited tapas bars, museums, and diverse neighborhoods. I'd do more of that if (well, when) I go back to Madrid.
How has your experience studying abroad with API changed your life?
My perspective changed and I changed. Before going abroad, I thought that my life would lead me to a PR agency in NYC, but studying abroad taught me to see the world without geographical barriers. I realized that I could do anything, anywhere. Currently, I'm working with API as a Recruiting Intern, attending study abroad fairs in the Northeast and promoting the personal, professional, and cross-cultural development that occurs overseas. Next year I'll be Teaching English in Colombia with API's Cultural Embrace program - API got me hooked!
If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be?
I'd choose to do a program at a Spanish university instead of an American branch campus. Yes, as a double major, Suffolk offered absolutely everything I was looking for to fulfill my course requirements, but it lacked what I wanted: total immersion. To work towards that, I chose to live with a host family and branch out to find Spanish friends. It's easy to revert to what's comfortable in such a big city - speaking English and hanging out with Americans - but it was important to me to seek out Spanish opportunities.
What important tips can you give to those who are planning to study abroad?
I think what future study “abroaders” should know is that studying abroad also means you're living abroad. While country hopping is enticing (really, really enticing), you should also spend as much time as you can in your host city and country. The opportunity to live in a foreign city is priceless - you have the chance to get to know it like a local would. Take advantage of that!
Did you experience any kind of reverse culture shock upon re-entry?
Yes, I did. Being away for a year changes everything. I matured and learned so much about myself and the world, that returning to a college campus was very different. It took some adapting, and realizing that I could continue my travel and adventure mindset at school and at home. As an API Peer Mentor on my campus, I created a study abroad returnee community with internationally-minded students.
If you could go on another API program, where would you go?
Cuba or Buenos Aires! API's Cuba program is exactly what I'd be looking for to improve my Spanish and live in a beautiful country. I've heard really great things from people who studied in Cuba - they learned so much! I'd go to Buenos Aires because multiple people have told me that I should go there. It must be my spirit city.