Why did you choose this program?
One of the main goals that I wanted to achieve while abroad was to improve my academic Spanish, and since the Madrid-IU program is a full immersion program in which all my classes would be in Spanish, taught by Spanish professors, I thought it would be perfect to accomplish this goal. Also, I’ve always enjoyed big city environments, and wanted to experience the daily energetic life that living in one would offer. Madrid, a beautiful center of culture and excitement, did not disappoint.

Describe your favorite class(es) abroad.
My two favorite classes in Madrid were centered around Spain and its current events and past histories. One class, which addressed the current economic and political system of Spain, was especially interesting and helpful because it allowed me to learn more about the culture that I was living in, and helped me engage more with Spanish people. Before having these classes, I didn’t really know anything about Spain or its history, but it was fascinating to see how everything that I was learning in class manifested itself in my daily life there.

What was the housing like on your study abroad program?
When I was in Madrid, I stayed with a host family that consisted of an older grandmother and her college-aged granddaughter. Many host families look more like this than a traditional father, mother, and children.

What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students?
I think the best advice for going abroad is to plan for things to go wrong. When you’re abroad, you're going to face many situations that are unexpected and sometimes not exactly favorable, but if you remain flexible, you’ll be able to bounce back faster and even learn to enjoy the inconveniences. Honestly, some of my most fun memories happened when things didn’t go exactly according to plan, and even if I could go back and fix every little mistake or every problem I faced, I wouldn’t.

What’s your best memory from your time abroad?
My best memory from Spain would probably have to be the spontaneous (very poorly planned) weekend girl’s trip that I took to the island of Mallorca with a few other students. Mallorca is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, with long stretches of beach and warm, crystal clear water. The whole weekend was spent lying on the beach with no worries or cares in the world, and it particularly sticks out to me because I remember thinking how lucky I was that I had the opportunity to go to such a beautiful place.

What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program?
One thing that surprised me about Madrid was how walkable it was, and how quickly it began to feel like home. Before going, I had this mental image of a giant city that was impossible to get around in without taking public transportation, and that I would constantly be lost and confused. In reality, my experience was the complete opposite, for while I did make use of the (excellent) public transportation system often, I probably spent an equal amount of time just walking around and getting to know the city and its separate neighborhoods. As far as big cities go, I found Madrid to be very user-friendly and easy to navigate.

Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock.
Surprisingly, I think I had an easier time adapting to living in Spain than I did adapting to living at home again. For me, it was very difficult to adapt back to the normal, slower pace of life that I have here from the constant activity that I had while abroad. Also, one of my favorite things to do while abroad was to travel and discover new things just by hopping on a bus or on a cheap flight, and it was hard to accept that I don’t have those same opportunities back in Indiana.

“If I could do it over, I would…”
If I could do it over, I would try to be more present in the moment, and stop sweating the little things. My time abroad went by so fast, and I wish that I had taken advantage of it more while I was there.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad?
I didn’t know how rewarding it would feel to know that I have the ability to adapt to life in a new country and culture, or how much self-confidence I would gain from that knowledge. Not everything is easy when you study abroad, but it’s through the challenges and overcoming them that you learn the most about yourself.

What do you wish someone had told you before you left?
Enjoy every second of it, even when you feel homesick or down. Home will always be there, but this opportunity only comes once.

What was your greatest challenge?
For me, the greatest challenge was being away from my family and friends. I am very close to my family, and the idea of being away from them so long was daunting. However, thanks to modern technology, they were only ever a phone call or facetime away. Also, once I was there, the other students that I was friends with became an important source of support for me, and I made an effort to focus on all the new experiences around me instead of thinking about what I was missing at home.

What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn?
Contrary to popular belief, they don’t actually take a 2 hour siesta in the afternoon. Some smaller shops may be closed, but (at least in Madrid), the city continues to function.

How did you find scholarships for study abroad?
The scholarships page on the overseas website was very useful to me when I was looking for scholarships.Using the website, I was able to find scholarships to apply to through the International Studies department and the Hutton Honors College. Also, I partly chose this program because I knew that the financial aid and scholarships that I receive for tuition at IU could also be applied to the program, and because it offered an in-state tuition rate.

Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities?
I would definitely recommend that students find out whether their specific academic department offers any study abroad scholarships, because this proved very helpful to me, and I was not aware that departments did this until I was already applying to the programs.