“You can read however many books or look at however many pictures, but there is nothing like actually going to a new place and interacting with the people there. It was a beautiful experience because it simultaneously made the world feel smaller, but it also shows how much there is to learn and explore.”
I wanted to study abroad because I had heard from so many people that it is an extremely important, fun, and unique opportunity to live in another country. I had never been to Europe and I wanted to study Spanish, which is how I decided on Spain. I specifically chose the program in Cordoba because I was interested in having a more immersive Spanish experience, which would not be as available in a bigger city such as Madrid or Barcelona. Also, as a smaller city, Cordoba was a more financially viable option.
Our program trip to Morocco was definitely an extremely interesting cultural experience. It was set up as a cultural exchange, and we stayed with actual families from Morocco and visited a handful of women and youth organizations. The opportunity to talk first-hand with people my age from Morocco was incredibly eye-opening. Those conversations we shared as they gave us a small tour of Rabat, allowed us to share a surprising amount of similarities in culture and life but also lots of differences.
One concern was that I would be missing out on a whole semester of life and school at Berkeley. However, because I planned ahead, it has been no problem staying completely on track for graduation. Also, lots happens in a semester at Berkeley, but really it is a lot of just the same thing. My experience abroad provided me with a unique and different perspective upon my return - some new criticisms of life on campus but also some things I am extremely grateful for and privileged to have.
During the weekday, I would have class from 9:30-11am and then from 12-2pm. After which I would eat lunch with my host family at around 3. The afternoon would vary day-to-day, but I quickly became very accustomed to a siesta. After, I would normally play with my host mom's grandson, go on a run in the nearby park, take a stroll through the city, meetup with my friends from the program or from Cordoba and go to a bar or cafe. Dinner with my host family was usually around 10 p.m. or I would just get tapas with friends. Then, I would either spend time with my host family or go out with friends to a bar, concert, or club. On the weekends, I either switched off traveling around parts of Spain or Europe, or went on smaller excursions closer to Cordoba (like hiking up in the hills, going to a soccer game, or visiting a nearby castle).
I took a Spanish class and two history classes. One was the history of Spain and the other focused specifically on the culture and history of Andalusia, which a southern region of Spain where Cordoba is located. Compared to my science classes at Berkeley, the course load was a lot easier and significantly less homework. I did take Spanish 3 at Berkeley, however, and the Spanish Class in Cordoba was comparable in workload and time. However, in general, I thoroughly enjoyed the classes and two of my teachers in the program were some of the best I have ever had.
The most meaningful aspect of my time abroad was meeting and connecting with so many new people from all over the world.
Studying abroad has really expanded my worldview and provided me with a more global perspective. You can read however many books or look at however many pictures, but there is nothing like actually going to a new place and interacting with the people there. It was a beautiful experience because it simultaneously made the world feel smaller (and as I sit here now I can happily think of the connections I have made across the world), but it also shows how much there is to learn and explore. It definitely made me more curious and adventurous and independent, and I can not wait to continue exploring.
To students considering studying abroad, I would say just do it. It is such a unique opportunity to gain a ton in world experience and also have a lot of fun. Just try to think carefully about what you are hoping to get out of the experience - is it lots of traveling? Is it fuller immersion? After thinking about some of the answers to these types of questions, it will be a lot easier to decide on a program that will work for you.