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Dana McCraw

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Human Development and Family Studies & Communications; Social and Economic Justice
Program: IES Barcelona; Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Term: Fall 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
When deciding to attend a university that I grew up just ten minutes away from, I knew that one day I would need to expand my horizons. Though UNC has a huge piece of my heart, after a few semesters I realized that I felt like my personal growth was stagnating. Yes, I had involved myself in a variety of new clubs, met tons of new people, and been challenged academically in ways I had never been before, but I felt that I needed to be challenged in more ways as a person. I craved the opportunity to get to know a new place on my own, like how many of my out-of-state friends describe their excitement and love for coming to Chapel Hill. So, when it came to selecting my particular program, there wasn't necessarily a 'somewhere' that I wanted to go, but rather an 'anywhere.' I ended up deciding on Spain so that I could practice my Spanish, and ended up in Barcelona because the programs there offered classes that best applied to my major and minor.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I am capable of doing so, so much on my own. Not that I ever could have done it all by myself – there were of course times when I needed to seek advice from my professors, cry to my roommate, ask strangers for directions, etc. – but I got the sense of truly being ‘on my own’ for the first time in my life, and I learned that I really enjoy that feeling!


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
Weirdly enough, one of my favorite moments and one that I think about most often is my plane ride home. With nine hours ahead of me, I opened up my computer to a journal document that I'd been adding to all semester, beginning three and a half months ago and ending with thoughts from the previous day. As I read, I was taken back to the first time I entered my home in Spain, climbing five flights of stairs in eighty-degree weather with my huge suitcases. I was taken back to the day that I met some of my abroad best friends, people who I now can’t imagine life without! I remembered the view of the city from the mountains, the many instances when I was given an English menu despite my attempt to speak Spanish. The good times and the challenging times, I was re-living it all from my position in the sky. It all felt so surreal, and is definitely a bittersweet but wonderful memory.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Take the time to reflect on your experiences! To me, this is the best way to learn about yourself and your personal growth. You can be exposed to hundreds of new sights, people, foods, experiences, etc., which can be incredible, but they become even more valuable if you reflect and appreciate how these things have impacted your thinking and behavior in different situations.


Would you do it again?
Without a doubt!


How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?
I am definitely more confident in my intercultural communication abilities after having studied abroad. I learned that in order to be an effective intercultural communicator, I must be willing to be skeptical of my own cultural biases and be curious rather than judgmental. Intercultural sensitivity is an important skill for many careers within this globalized world, and is definitely important for my career aspiration as a future educator. Increasingly, students in the US come from many different parts of the world and different walks of life, so it’s of huge importance to understand the many ways in which various cultures and viewpoints can be different than one’s own.