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Karina Martin

Karina Martin

Major: Sociology - Spanish Language and Literature Minor

"It's a second home to me, I have friends and now family over there. I created a community there and I wouldn't mind making it bigger than it already is."

What led you to study abroad? Why did you choose your country/program?

As a kid I always want to travel to Europe and told myself one day I would. I never knew how I would make that happen until college. I knew I wanted to study abroad; however, because of my GPA I never qualified for the semester long programs. It wasn't until a friend of mine applied for the summer and I thought to myself if they can do it so can I. The GPA was 2.0 and above and I had a couple of days before the deadline to apply and I did. At the time I was going through a lot and the simple act of applying was a win for myself. Being accepted into the Madrid Summer Abroad Program was the cherry on top, the pick me up I needed.

I chose this country/program because I wanted to go to a country where I spoke the language. I also found Madrid to be central, a place where I could travel to and from other countries. The program I did was language based and I believed this would help me start my path to obtaining a minor in Spanish.

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

The most interesting cultural experience would be meeting my Spanish friends in Madrid which to this day we still keep in touch. I had the opportunity to meet their family, go to their family events, explore Madrid with them and I'd like to say we became a family. Much love to Sergio, Ivan, Dario, their grandparents/parents as well as to Koleta, Rocio, Jesus, Montse, Alberto, Cristian, Luis and many more.

What was the biggest challenge/concern of your study abroad experience? How did you respond?

My biggest challenge during my study abroad experience occurred this past summer the day I arrived to Madrid when I developed a partial paralysis on the left side of face, medically known as Bell's Palsy. This was something I was not sure I could overcome on my own. Thankfully I had my friends from Spain, my study abroad family (my cohort), my professor María del Mar help me navigate this experience as well as having medical insurance (thanks to UC Berkeley). If it wasn't for all of that I don't know what I would have done. Despite all the support, I can't lie and say I was 100% okay, this experience was traumatic and it affected my self-confidence, my mental health as well as my physical health. There were days I wanted to give up and other days where I felt optimistic especially when I saw progress of my face going back to "normal". I don't regret staying because it showed me what community looks like, what I am capable of overcoming, how strong I am and that if I can overcome this I can overcome anything that life throws at me.

Describe a typical day for you abroad.

A typical day abroad depends on whether I have class or work/class.

When I had work, I went Monday through Thursday and on Fridays I had class. Normally on Fridays my friends and I would set out to travel to other places in Spain. We'd come back on Sunday and be back by the night.

As for a regular day, wake up to eat breakfast, work started until 1. So I would do HW in the meantime and then get ready to go to work. My job was a 10 minute walk from where I lived which was really nice. My internship was at HM Hospital Universitario Madrid and I'd get to each lunch there around 2:30pm. I would get off work around 5 or 6 depending on the day. Apart from working at the hospital I would also work from the international department office as well. Depending where they needed me I would go there. Once I got off of work I'd go home get ready for dinner at 8 and eat at the residence hall with my cohort. During dinner we'd figure out what we'd do for the night. Days were always eventful. Never a boring day.

What coursework did you take while abroad? How did courses abroad compare with Berkeley classes?

While I was abroad I took the following classes: SPANISH N3 Intermediate Spanish, SPANISH 16 Cultura Contemporania, SPANISH 121 Contemporary Spanish History and Culture, UGIS W158 Global Citizenship. My first time abroad I took a lower division Spanish course and my second time abroad I took an upper division Spanish course which were classes I saw could help me fulfill my requirements for my minor.

The courses abroad were easier to complete although taught by professors from Berkeley as well. What made it easier was having classmates that were your friends outside of class, it helped keep everyone on top of their work. It was easier to ask my classmates if we had any homework or to have study sessions. We helped keep each other accountable. We'd all try to do our homework before traveling or while we traveled (during the bus or train ride). Having a good support system made the classes easier.

What was the most memorable/meaningful aspect of your time abroad?

The people I met and the places I was able to see whether it was with my friends or by myself. I think the time I traveled alone to France and Italy was an experience I'll never forget. Not knowing the language and using the very little French helped me navigate places like Marseille and Paris. Spanish being my native language helped me a lot in Italy when I went to Milan, Venice and Florence because of how similar Spanish and Italian are. The people I met in every city will forever have a special place in my heart.

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

Personally it made me want to move to Madrid to possibly move there one day or do my Master's program.

What would you recommend to students considering studying abroad, especially to your country or program?

I would recommend a list of things like:

  • -> Get a travel credit card to avoid bank fees as well as conversion of currency fees.
  • -> Never pay in dollars always pay in the currency of country or you will be charged a conversion of currency fee.
  • -> Have cash because some places don't accept card.
  • -> Don't stick to a rigid schedule if you plan to travel within the country because others in your program may want to join you. Be open to change. If you plan to travel to another country then yes plan ahead because plane tickets are expensive.
  • -> Invest in student monthly pass for the metro because that will help you get around in Madrid.
  • -> If you like concerts tickets for the most part cost less than 50 euros.
  • -> Look into Citylife for group excursions.
  • -> Hostels can be very affordable and you meet people from across the world.
  • -> Explore the city you're in because time flys and you might not spend a lot of weekends there if you're traveling to other places.
  • -> When asking for water at a restaurant, ask for tap water (that's free) if not they will assume you're asking for bottled water which is not free.
  • -> Nightlife is big part of the culture in Madrid.
  • -> Get used to walking, it's something you'll get used to.
How has study abroad influenced your future career path? Or, how do you see the skills you gained while abroad translating into the field you want to go into?

I am considering moving to Madrid and teaching English over there. I also thought of living there for some time. It's a second home to me, I have friends and now family over there. I created a community there and I wouldn't mind making it bigger than it already is. I actually was planning to go this past summer to look at universities; however due to the pandemic that was put on hold. For now I plan to look into jobs where I can translate English to Spanish in a medical setting.