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Maureen Sullivan

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Major-Environmental Health Science (Public Health) Minors-Chemistry and Hispanic Studies
Program: IES Barcelona-Language and Area Studies
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Term: Summer 2021


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to make use of the Spanish classes I have taken at UNC. Being forced to speak Spanish at all times was definitely helpful in increasing my knowledge of the language and my confidence. I have also lived in the triangle area of North Carolina my entire life, so I wanted to live somewhere else and experience a new culture. The original program I had selected for study abroad was canceled due to COVID, but I ended up choosing to do this program as I would still get an experience speaking Spanish in a Spanish speaking country. This program allowed me to take a class in Spanish and take an area studies class which taught me more about Spain and the cultures of other Spanish speaking countries.


What did you learn about yourself?
This experience allowed me to learn how to be more independent. Since I live fairly close to UNC, when I am in school I go home fairly often, so my time in Spain was my longest time away from home. I was scared at first, but soon after I was no longer, as my friends became like family. Additionally, I am very directionally challenged, but living in Barcelona forced me to figure out how to navigate the city and the metro system.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favorite memories was taking a day trip to Figueres, which is a small town about an hour north of Barcelona. First we toured the Salvador Dali museum, which was very interesting and allowed me to learn more about the artistic culture of Spain, which I did not experience as much in my classes in Spain. In the afternoon we went to the town of Cadaques, which is where Dali lived. We were able to have a patatas bravas picnic on the beach and had delicious ice cream before heading back to Barcelona.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Due to COVID, there were a lot of uncertainties while I was there. Even up to the day we left, I had doubts that the program would run. While we were there rates of COVID were increasing and decreasing, and this resulted in changing laws frequently. Among uncertainties abroad, I would recommend paying close attention to local laws and regulations. Additionally, I would recommend working to make the most out of your time there. Even though there were a lot of COVID regulations, we all still were able to have a good time and do pretty much everything Barcelona had to offer.


How do you identify?
Scholarship Recipient


Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
As someone who appeared very American, I definitely felt like I stuck out a lot. This made me more likely to be a victim of pickpocketing. Because of this, I worked to be very aware of my surroundings and make sure that all of my valuables were always secure. Additionally, during the times of COVID, we sometimes appeared like tourists which caused locals to glare or vocally express their dislike of us. However, we tried to not let this bother us, and made sure to strictly follow COVID restrictions.