"Studying abroad for me was more than just for knowledge or skill to put on my resume or in my essay for graduate school. I wanted to see the world and I was able to get a glimpse through Berkeley Summer Abroad."
I had always wanted to travel and knew that upon transferring to UC Berkeley, this was going to be number one goal. I decided to study abroad first in Madrid, Spain because I wanted to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language. After taking this class abroad and enjoying it so much, I wanted to study abroad in another Spanish-speaking country. I chose Chile because I wished to familiarize myself with Latin America. My concentration within the Global Studies major is development and Chile is often lauded internationally for having achieved economic and political development. Ultimately, studying abroad for me was more than just for knowledge or skill to put on my resume or in my essay for graduate school. I wanted to see the world and I was able to get a glimpse through Berkeley Summer Abroad.
Southern Spain is world-famous for its flamenco. During our last week, everyone in the program enjoyed a flamenco show with delicious paella as the main course at a well-liked, cozy Madrid restaurant. Seeing the beautiful choreography, the energy, and hearing the music made me the happiest I had been in weeks and was genuinely the most perfect way to end the program.
In Chile, watching the world cup final with a group of travelers from all over the world—Brazil, the Netherlands, Uruguay—is a memorable experience. Crowded in a small waiting room, we were strangers who had quickly gotten to know each other and were cheering on our favorite teams far away from home.
My biggest challenge while studying abroad was getting used to the fact that neither my family nor my friends were with me and that I couldn’t call them whenever I wanted to due to time differences. However, after the first couple of days I got to know my group and professor and the loneliness went away.
In Spain, I had class from morning to noon. Then, we were free to explore the city. I personally loved visiting the numerous museums and cultural centers that the city offered, such as the Museo del Romanticismo or the CaixaForum Madrid. After spending the day visiting museums, taking photos of the beautiful buildings, and interacting with Spanish people, I would study for a couple of hours at night at one of the many fantastic cafes that were in the vicinity.
I don’t think I had a typical day in Chile. Our program took place in three different locations: Concepción, Santiago (the capital), and Valparaíso. On the days we had class (which lasted between two and four hours), we also usually had guest speakers from various sectors in Chilean politics and society. Afterwards, we visited different landmarks and acted like the tourists we were!
While I was in Spain, I took intermediate Spanish while also taking a cultural class that consisted of going to different museums, cities, and cultural centers to learn about Spanish history. We got the chance to go to Segovia and Toledo, watched a flamenco show, and explored the writers’ neighborhood.
In Chile, my class was Latin American Studies 160, which focused on the economic and socio-political history of the country. The class gave me a strong introduction to Latin American politics and the spread of different ideologies both in Chile and in the region.
When comparing these course to the ones in Berkeley, I have to say that they were more rigorous simply because of the short amount of time we had. However, you are in the city and country which you are studying, and the streets and corners are your textbook, which makes the classes interesting and fun. Both programs also featured guest speakers who were well-known in their fields and who had made and / or witnessed history.
In both Spain and Chile, I found the time spent with the people I had just met—both locals and fellow tourists—to be the most meaningful and memorable aspect of my time abroad. I am naturally very curious and loved learning phrases in different languages, hearing people describe their hometowns, and bonding in such a short amount of time. Thanks to technology, it is super easy to keep in touch should you wish to do so!
Studying abroad first and foremost increased my knowledge of the world. My Spanish skills dramatically improved and I was able to learn about a wide range of topics covering history, politics, economics, the arts, and more. Spain is the first country that I ever visited outside of the ones I have / had lived in. After this trip, I noticed that I felt more comfortable going to places alone and my interest in Spanish literature increased. In Chile, our group stayed at a hostel, which allowed me to meet people from all over the place and become friends. Intellectually, I was challenged to think in another language and interact with many different people. Personally, I made life-changing memories.
To students who are thinking of studying abroad in Spain or Chile, I say do it. These are two unique and inspirational countries with so much history and culture. Do not be scared of culture shock or differences in general. You definitely will make friends and you will make unforgettable memories that you will forever cherish. Studying abroad should be done because you genuinely want to explore a part of the world. Take the chance while you still have the time. There are numerous financial resources available that can help you finance a trip.