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Ansley Cowan

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: psychology (BA) and HDFS
Program: IES Abroad Barcelona
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Term: Fall 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to immerse myself in a culture different from my own and gain a deeper understanding of those cultures and the people who are a part of them. I also wanted to widen my horizons and experience various ways to live out life than the typical American way that I grew up living. I chose to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain through IES because I wanted to try to become fluent in Spanish, and IES offered the liberal arts classes that I needed to put towards my psychology major.


What did you learn about yourself?
While abroad, I learned that I am a lot more capable of being independent than I originally thought. I have always been a somewhat independent person, but I would have never in a million years thought that I could be strong enough to live in a foreign country and navigate traveling all over Europe without any help from my parents. I feel that this semester showed me just how much I can do on my own and taught me that sometimes being alone fosters more growth than being surrounded by people all the time.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favorite memories from my time in Barcelona this fall was my first weekend staying in Barcelona. I was fortunate enough to travel around Europe on most of the weekends, so I did not have a full weekend in Barcelona until I had been there for a full month. My best friend and I stumbled upon a very cool market fest that was full of locals and had live music, food trucks, artwork and clothing vendors. Because our classes were through IES and therefore full of all American students, it was refreshing to be surrounded by so many Spanish locals and see how they spend their typical Saturday afternoons. Looking back, that was one of my favorite days in Barcelona because it was so unexpected to find such a cool event going on right around the corner.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
My biggest advice for future study abroad students would be to journal throughout their time abroad. For me personally, journaling is a great, healthy outlet for my emotions and allows me to reflect and take time to think about where I am in life at that point. Luckily, I wrote in my journal about my various weekend trips and weeks in Barcelona as well as my feelings and thoughts. I’m so glad I did this because now I can look back on my experiences and see just how much I really grew over the fourteen weeks, and it also helps to remember what all you did abroad since it is such a jam-packed few months.


Would you do it again?
YES! Studying abroad was by far the best experience of my life yet: so much so that I am strongly considering living abroad somewhere for a year or two after graduating to teach English and learn about more cultures. I think that everyone would benefit immensely from studying abroad as it pushes you to discover more about yourself and the world around you.


How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
My classes abroad were all taken through IES, which is a third party program of all American students from across the country. I took primarily psychology courses, but they differed greatly from the psychology course that I have taken so far at UNC because they were all taught by non-American professors. This offered a much different view on human development and cultures than classes here in the USA. I really appreciated the various perspectives from my teachers and the different topics that they chose to teach related to Spain because it helped me to gain insight into how Europeans, and specifically Spaniards and Catalans, think and why they act the way that they do.