About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Psychology and Media and Journalism
Program: University of Navarra (Media and Journalism)
Location: Pamplona, Spain
Term: Spring 2020
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
First, I was always planning to study abroad during college. I only traveled twice out of the country in my entire life before and the trips only lasted two to three weeks and I always traveled with my family. When I arrived at UNC, many people raved about their study abroad experiences and how it changed their lives. From the student tour guides to classmates and friends, they all spoke positively about their time abroad. After hearing from them, I definitely wanted to push and challenge myself to do the same thing. I had two main reasons for my choice of program. I always wanted to go to Spain since I wished I could be immersed in the culture and learn the language as well. I've been taking Spanish classes in high school and my first two years of college. Also, I wanted my program to be tailored to my major, Media and Journalism to gain more experience in marketing and advertising through an international lens. The Hussman School of Journalism and Media only had one program in Spain. So it was an easy choice to pick the Communication program at the University of Navarra.
What did you learn about yourself?
I was really surprised at my resilience. Again, this was my first time traveling internationally alone. I also live in Durham, so I didn't really move or go out of state to attend college. Hence, I was never really apart from my friends and family. While I was amazed at everything in Spain, I started to become homesick later on. I was also having trouble in adapting and had culture shock too. Although I raved about meeting new people earlier, it was a long process. I'm an introverted person so making friends didn't happen overnight. I was struggling to find my group and where I could fit in. But I continuously kept talking to people while trying to get adjusted for my school and apartment life. Again, I'm grateful that my roommates and friends were open and supportive. They helped me in establishing a routine like opening a gym membership and invited to social outings to introduce me to other people as well. Overall, I was really proud of myself of taking control of my life and being able to balance my priorities.
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
The people I connected with! I loved meeting my two roommates and all the students (both regular and international) were very nice and friendly! Only two of us from the UNC Media and Journalism program went to Pamplona (it's a small city compared to Madrid and Barcelona) so I didn't know anyone when I traveled to Spain. I was especially worried since this was my first time traveling by myself outside of the United States. But literally everyone that I met was so welcoming and accepting. Not only did we talk in class, but I also spent time with them outside of school to celebrate their birthdays, travel to nearby cities on the weekend, and eat at restaurants (or at their apartments). I really enjoyed traveling to San Sebastian, which is a city near the sea that is an hour away by bus from Pamplona. I went there a couple of times with friends to walk around by the beach, ride the Ferris wheel, travel up the mountains, and eat at the restaurants. Since it was so close by, I was able to do a day trip during the weekends. Literally, traveling was one of the best ways to connect with people.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
I know that traveling internationally is scary, especially since the pandemic is occurring. And I realize that studying abroad programs will change drastically even after the pandemic is over. While this brings new worries and anxiety and you might feel lonely or hesitant, I am certain that you will be able to overcome these challenges. You might be surprised at your own determination, just like I was. Also, you don't have to face these challenges alone. I was fortunate that both the faculty and staff from UNC and UNAV were accommodating and that I had a support group. My friends were understanding and they tried to help me as much as possible. Even if you don't know anyone initially, I assure you that will change with time. Studying abroad is rewarding. It changes your life.
How do you identify?
Student of color