Callie Barnard

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Political Science
Program: IES: Barcelona
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Term: Spring 2020


In what ways do you feel that you learned and grew during your global experience? Could you share a particular memory from your time abroad where you learned something important about yourself or your host culture?

As someone who had always dreamt of traveling Europe in college, the decision to study abroad was an easy one. I quickly submitted my application to study in Barcelona, and was overjoyed when it was accepted. I got to Barcelona in January 2020, eager to begin learning about Spanish and Catalan cultures. I took classes through IES and UAB, so my classes were spread out among three campuses. This was an awesome opportunity to be able to take the bus or metro to new places that I wouldn't ordinarily visit.

IES has a super central classroom building in the heart of Barcelona, but my classes at UAB were not walking distance. This could have been annoying, but I took it as a chance to shop, eat, and explore historic museums, parks, and monuments further away from my home base. I loved getting to the campus early to sit at the cafe and drink an espresso while listening to Spanish students chatter about their classes. You don't realize how much you eavesdrop until everyone around you is speaking a different language!

When March quickly arrived, the month that we now all know to be the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, my friends and I started hearing word of programs across Italy being canceled. We spent our last few weeks fitting as much as possible into our already long days to make the most of what we knew was coming to an end soon. We ate at restaurants we had been “saving” for the end, went to an FC Barca game, visited the Sagrada Familia, and watched the sun set from the Bunkers one last time.

Coming back to the US was a hard transition from living alone in Spain for the past month and a half. Being stuck with my parents and sister in quarantine, with a positive COVID test post-return, and having to take classes 6 hours ahead was not easy, but it taught me patience like no other experience. I learned through this experience that I was a lot more resilient than I thought I was.


What are your life plans after UNC Graduation?

After graduation, I am hoping to move to Washington D.C. and work in the public sector. I hope to return to Europe to continue my travels as well as explore new places all over the world in the future.


How do you think studying abroad prepared for you for your next steps post graduation?

Studying abroad instilled in me a sense of freedom and a love for exploration that I will take into my future career and life. I did not realize how much of a bubble I lived in growing up in North Carolina and going to UNC, so having the chance to wander around Barcelona in between classes and hear new languages, try new foods, and navigate the metro system in Catalan made me realize that the world was so much bigger than North Carolina.

I started out my time in Barcelona being timid and afraid of messing up; however, I realized that the Catalan people are actually very kind and accepting. While you may get some odd stares when trying to speak Spanish at a restaurant met with what "What would you like to order?" in English, most of the time, they were helpful and tolerant of my language skills. By the time I returned to the US, I was much more confident and ready to take on whatever the world threw at me.


As you reflect back on your undergraduate experience, what words of wisdom do you want to share with your fellow Tar Heels?

If you have the chance to study abroad, whether it be for a summer or a semester, GO! Do not be afraid of talking to people, because they may end up being some of your best friends. Take chances, they will most likely work out better than you could ever imagine. If they don't, you will have an awesome story!


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