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Madelyn Banat

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Psychology Major, Spanish for the Professions Minor
Program: IES Abroad
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Term: Fall 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I wanted to Study Abroad because I felt that as a Spanish Language Minor I would never be able to feel fully confident in my Spanish-speaking skills if I did not immerse myself in a culture where Spanish is the main language. With that in mind, I knew that I wanted to go to Spain but I also knew that I wanted to ability to travel across Europe/Africa while I was abroad, so I chose IES as it was the only program centrally located in Barcelona that I thought would provide me the freedom and help that I was looking for.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned a lot about culture and its effects on my personal identity while I was abroad. Spain is very different from the US, especially in terms of the culture of the people, and I learned the ways in which growing up in the Southern United States with an immigrant Father and American Mother have modeled my mindset to be different from many of my friends. These combined identities that I associate myself with, however, aided me a lot while I was abroad and helped me to interact with people of various cultures in different places with ease.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
In Barcelona one of the first names that you hear is Gaudí and he is continuously brought up in every aspect of life because he designed so much of the city and influences the people still today. I had been to the outside of The Sagrada Familia many times throughout my semester abroad but I will never forget the first moment that I actually went inside in late November. The architecture is so unique from anything that I had seen before and it has an incredible history that is reflected in every aspect of it. I remember walking into The Sagrada at sunset and the light shined through the warm-toned stained glass windows and turned the entirety of The Sagrada into a fiery orange that glowed like nothing I had ever seen before. It shined exactly as Gaudí had intended it to and that is what makes it so special.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
I would say avoid getting caught up in the idea of the "right way" to study abroad. Every single person studies abroad differently and while I was abroad I felt that the people who were unhappiest were the ones trying to keep up with what they felt was necessary for it to be "worth it." I had friends who went on a different trip every single weekend just to say that they did and they were exhausted by the end of the semester, and they also felt as if they neglected to explore Barcelona fully.


Would you do it again?
I would absolutely study abroad again if I could. It was an amazing experience that I value so much.


How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
In IES they put an emphasis on making sure the classes you take, regardless of their subject, integrate the ideas of cultural variation and the host city you are in to the course. As a Psychology major, both of my Psych classes dedicated time to discussing how psychology is learned and experienced differently across cultures, which I personally feel has aided me in studying psychology back at UNC because I have a different outlook on some topics than my peers.


How do you identify?
Transfer Student


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
As a transfer student I wasn't sure if I should or could study abroad, but with careful planning and utilizing the help of your advisors it is not only possible but also just as easy as it would be for others.


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
Being abroad inevitably leads to challenges for everyone, and I was not shy of my struggles along the way. When things felt like they were too tough though, IES staff and my professors were always willing to help and sometimes all it took was talking to my professors about my situation to receive the aid that I needed.