Liza Callis - 2012 Program Participant

Study abroad students on the beach in Barcelona, Spain
Liza and her roommate on the beach in Barcelona.

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because I never left my hometown to go to college. I felt like I was missing out on the college experience because I didn't even live in a dorm or have a meal plan. College to me was just an expansion of high school; same friends, same place, same life. I needed time for me, I needed to get away, if just for a few months, I needed to feel that sense of independence and homesickness. I wanted to live a little. 

Why did you choose your program?

I chose ISA because of their impressive catalogs. The University of Cincinnati International Office offers sessions for students interested in studying abroad or that have already been accepted into a program, which is where I discovered ISA and a variety of different study abroad organizations.

While there was a wide array of programs and organizations to choose from, ISA stood out to me the most because of their colorful, easy to use catalog that was filled with photos from actual students abroad in each city. ISA's catalog offered a more personal and fun-oriented side to their programs. Because I was drawn to this catalog, I found a program that was exactly what I wanted and chose it almost immediately.

You’re from the University of Cincinnati, what advice would you give to other Cincinnati students going to study abroad in Barcelona?

My advice for anyone, traveling anywhere, is to never have expectations. I have found that when you have expectations, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and cannot appreciate all the great surprises your time abroad throws at you.

Barcelona is very different from Cincinnati, both physically and in the attitudes and mindsets of the people . Be open to new customs and traditions, and do not be quick to judge or assume that things are okay just because that is how we do them in Cincinnati. Barcelona has a very large, urban feel but it also offers a sense of community and relaxation, just like Cincinnati does. Try to get involved in the culture of Barcelona and not just be a visitor on vacation.

What makes the program you participated in so interesting?

I studied abroad for the Spring Semester of 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. This program not only had great people and friends I will have for a lifetime, but it had more than just a four month stay in a new city. My program had excursions we could attend if we wanted, some day trips, others over night, all free and led by ISA staff. My program gave us just enough free time, yet if we wanted to spend a day touring our host city, or to see something less popular, we could contact the office or check our weekly emails from ISA. The staff was helpful, fun, and easy to talk to about problems or just friendly conversation.

What is the best thing about your program that future participants need to know?

 This program was an incredible experience, you get to see many cities in Spain and travel every weekend if you so desire. The best thing about this program was the freedom you were given and the safety of the city. Not all programs can offer such leniency in your weekend travels because of safety concerns or religion. Barcelona offered both safety and a welcoming culture that was eager to not only help you learn your Spanish, or Catalan, but to also show you around their beautiful city and share with you their ways of life.

What was your favorite class during your study abroad program in Barcelona?

I enjoyed cross cultural management. This class focused on how to be in a business setting with people of all different cultures. I found it interesting to learn the different styles of business transactions and mannerisms: some cultures use gift giving, while others find gift giving to be rude or a bribery. I enjoyed how many different kinds of students were in this class, such as Germans, Americans, Chinese, and British. It was interesting to see our different approaches to the same situations or assignments. My teacher was from Belgium, which is a diverse country in itself, so I got to learn specifically about Belgium from a citizens perspective rather than a text book.

Why was Barcelona the best place to study abroad in Spain?

Barcelona has every type of feel: there are streets that are alive and filled with energy. There are streets that are sunny and filled with trees and flowers, streets that have only Spanish restaurants, streets that are too narrow for cars, streets that lead to a beach, and streets with nothing at all. That is the beauty of being in such a large city - every area you stumble upon is so different from the last.

La Rambla is great for tourists if they want to see street performers and go to La Boqueria market for some interesting treats. The beach is filled with locals of all ages eating, drinking, and playing sports, and is a great place to relax with friends. There is nightlife for everyone,  from dancing until early in the morning to sipping coffee and listening to live music. Shopping is endless.

The public transportation in Barcelona is wonderful, and the metro is the cheapest and most efficient means of getting anywhere you want to go. While Barcelona is a large city, you can easily travel to more rural places in Spain, and Barcelona offers many means of getting to these places in a timely manner. Barcelona is a magical place with so many great opportunities for anyone. 

What’s one thing you would have done differently?

I would have stayed longer. I thought that four months away from home would be too long, but after about two weeks I never wanted to leave. That semester flew by faster than I ever could have imagined and I would have loved to spend even one more week, after classes got out, to travel around Barcelona or elsewhere before I came back home.

Now that you’re home, how has study abroad impacted your life?

Study abroad affects me everyday. It changed who I am and I never want to forget that. Leaving home was hard but completely worth it for what I learned in return. Not only was Barcelona beautiful and fun, but I met the most amazing people that are still in my life. Most of all, I am confident and comfortable in who I am today. I left Cincinnati alone without knowing anyone in my program, which allowed me to be whoever I wanted to be - it was a fresh start.

I learned to budget, how to get along with strangers, and became more outgoing. I learned about different cultures and even about different states in the US. I learned how to take chances, try new things, and how to use public transportation by myself (even though this required getting lost at least once).

There is at least one thing every day that reminds me of Barcelona and all of the great experiences I had there. Studying abroad planted something inside of me: the desire to travel. I recently returned from backpacking Southeast Asia, which I could never have done if I hadn't studied abroad. It gave me the confidence to travel and the desire to see the world.

Thank you ISA for your help!