Name: Emily Cohen, Class of 2021
Program: REUNIDAS at Universidad de Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain, Fall 2019
Fields of Study: International Relations, Spanish
How did studying abroad affect your academic and/or professional career?
The most important way that my abroad experience affected my academic and will affect my professional career is simply in the vast improvement of my Spanish skills. Since my time abroad, my Spanish classes have been significantly easier for me; you can study Spanish for year but going abroad is truly what made me finally able to use the language effectively. Additionally, simply being able to say that I am advanced in Spanish on a resume will open numerous more profesional experiences to me.
How did you explore your hobbies, interests, and passions abroad?
One of my main passions is traveling and learning about new cultures. I was able to truly understand the culture of Spain, especially Madrid, by living with a host mother and participating in activities with her. I also was able to spend my weekends traveling in order to gain a small glimpse into the cultures of other cities and countries. Additionally, I love working with kids, and through my study abroad program, I had the opportunity to tutor three children in English weekly. This was such a unique part of my study abroad experience, and I will never forget the connections I formed with the kids.
Why would you recommend your respective abroad program or location?
Madrid, Spain, in my opinion, is the absolute best place to study abroad. The culture and the people are so welcoming and the way of life there is extremely calm and peaceful, yet there is always something to do and your are never bored. Additionally, if you are going abroad to practice Spanish skills, I would especially recommend Madrid because the accent is the most neutral in all of Spain and simply being in the capital of Spain provides you with numerous opportunities and makes it easier to travel.
What should students consider when applying and preparing for their time abroad?
I think the first and most important thing to remember is that you are going somewhere with completely different customs, norms, and potentially even language for the semester. You have to be flexible and willing to try new things, accepting the fact that the way of life you are accustomed to is not the way that everyone else lives. Another extremely important thing to keep in mind is to remember to take time to yourself to relax. It can be so tempting to spend your time abroad constantly busy and traveling every weekend, but you want to make sure you take time to process everything that you have been taking in and to truly embrace the life you are living in your host country.
Share a story about a time you experienced cultural immersion.
One specific time when I felt I experienced complete cultural immersion was a day spent with my host mom and her niece. We spent the day learning how to cook "tortilla española," one of the most traditional and popular Spanish foods, and through this experiences, I essentially completed an entire cooking class in Spanish. We then all ate what we made for lunch together in a meal that lasted for about 2 hours, as typical Spanish meals last for much longer than American meals. We then simply walked around in Retiro Park, the main park of Madrid that was right next to my apartment, and my host mom showed me a few of her favorite spots in the park. It felt like simply a normal day in the life of my host mom, and that was how I knew that I was truly immersed in the culture of Madrid.