About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Philosophy Major Geography and Cognitive Science Minors
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Term: Spring 2019
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
Travelling has always been a passion of mine. I knew I wanted to attend a university with a diverse study abroad office, offering endless opportunities that work alongside my preferences. By the end of sophomore I was ready to immerse myself in a foreign culture, discover rituals and societal practices, produce a more upstanding worldly citizen. Selecting a program was quite the challenge. With all the options to pick from, I struggled to select one that fit with my goals and wants. But alas, I limited it down to a region I was most interested in, and tracking my degree alongside courses offered through the programs I chose IES Barcelona! This was by the best decision for it helped me knock GE requirements such as language, minor requirements, I got to be in the continent I wanted , and the weather was perfect!
What did you learn about yourself?
Through travelling abroad, I learned of the secret drive each individual subconsciously possesses. There were many times of confusion, difficulty, home sicknesses, but throughout each of these tribulations, I discovered a tenacious drive from within to accept the challenges. I learned to experience the highs and the lows of each country I visited, and I matured through the hardships of trying to navigate in a foreign place. I learned that I can survive on my own. I can survive through communication, hope, and a will to pick myself up when times became tougher. I learned what parts of other cultures I wanted to bring back home to the United States, and I learned which parts I would leave behind. Ice belongs in water, regardless of what people might think!
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
There are too many to list, but my most favorite memory would the group of friends I made the first few weeks through the program. I arrived on my birthday, and I was completely alone. I had no friends, I did not know Barcelona well, so I spent my birthday walking around by myself, feeling a little lonesome because I couldn't communicate with locals well enough. A week later I began to find my niche and quickly solidified a strong group of friends. When I told them about my experience on my birthday, they felt so bad that they all spent the entire abroad celebrating it. This was all against my wishes. Whenever we went out to lunch, dinner, another country, a bar, a club, we would always toast and someone would always chime in "Happy Birthday Zach!" I will always remember being wished a happy birthday under Big Ben, regardless that it was three weeks later. My friends defined all my memories from abroad, and and I reflect back, I tearfully wish I could hear them wish me a happy birthday once more.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
I would tell future abroad students to breathe. For many reasons. When abroad I found myself caught up in the moment. Reflecting, I wish I could breathe more. Accept the challenges and obstacles that came my way and laughed them off. Looking back now, those are the times I miss. I say breathe so that you can appreciate the opportunity. I found myself constantly trying to do and see everything when I should of breathed more. Some of my favorite memories don't involve going to another city or sightseeing some European wonder. Many of favorite memories involve the days where I stayed in Barcelona. The sun would be out and three of my friends and I would take a walk to the park. It was relaxing and looking back I appreciate the times where I felt more grounded when being forced with a variety of options and opportunities.
Would you do it again?
Yes, without hesitation!
How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
I loved the classes I took abroad. They required more hands on activities and experiences. In my oceanography class, we took a class field trip to an estuary an hour away, and the professor had us dig and test soils. For my Food as culture class, we took a field trip to a small organic farm and helped pick fruits and vegetables that would be later be used for lunch. In my storytelling through media class, we were required to explore the city, to understand the historic roots needed in order to tell the stories we wanted to share. The classes abroad expected its students to dive deeper into our own understanding of the culture we come from and compare it relatively to the Spanish one we were living in. I loved this. Classes were small and I found myself talking and conversing with students more densely than when taking classes at UNC. The program pushes you to collaborate with one another more effectively, regardless of the difficulty of material being presented. It was another way to educate, and it was unlike classes I've taken at Carolina, and for that I am grateful.
How do you identify?
Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
Transfer Students! IT IS POSSIBLE. And not only that, you can GRADUATE ON TIME!! I was always worried that if I had study abroad it would push my graduation back a semester or two. That is not the case whatsoever. You can easily find a program that matches with your trajectory, and graduate in a fashionable manner. Don't let your transfer identity hold you back from from creating a worldy identity.
If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
There are so many resources abroad. My program had an office specifically for any problems that would arise: emotional, physical, educational. I also had tons of support from friends I made on the program so I could easily turn to them in times of need. Of course you can always get connected with UNC, but I never found an instance when I was abroad and a resource wasn't presented through my program!