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Haub School Student, Maddie Reid, Travels Abroad to Spain

March 5, 2020

Haub School student studies abroad in Spain

Name: Maddie Reid

Major: Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management

Year/Semester: Abroad Spring 2019

Location: Barcelona, Spain

School: Barcelona school for International Studies

Classes: Intensive Spanish, Spanish History and Culture, and Business Ethics

Places traveled: Pais Vasco, San Sebastian, Pamplona, Sitges, Jerez, Tarragona, Gerona, and Cadiz. 

Why were you interested in studying abroad? Why this location? I have been interested in studying abroad since I was in middle school, so it was always a part of my plan for when I came to university. I wanted to experience living somewhere out of my comfort zone, and that was different from my usual surroundings. Barcelona was a great fit because I wanted to improve my spanish, it was a big city, and it had a large airport that allowed me to travel to so many different places while I was abroad. 

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had? Sunday dinners at my homestay. Barcelona is in Catalonia, and in that part of spain they speak a language that is a mix of french and spanish called Catalan. The schools are taught in Catalan and everyone there is raised speaking both catalan and spanish. In my homestay we spoke a mixture of Spanish and english, but on the weekends my host mom’s boyfriend would come to visit. He spoke pretty much entirely in catalan. So on Sundays we would all have dinner together and he would speak in catalan to my host mom, and she would translate it to either spanish or english for me and my roommate. It was always interesting to have a dinner table with three different languages. I also loved hearing catalan because its close to spanish but not close enough for me to always understand him. It really showcased how different Catalonia is from the rest of spain. 

Haub School student studies abroad in Spain

What was the biggest challenge you encountered while abroad? How did you respond? The biggest challenge I encountered abroad was the different language barriers, and everything that came with that. I know Spanish pretty well, but even in Barcelona, most things are in catalan. In Morocco everyone spoke Arabic or french, but I knew neither. I stayed with a family while I was in Morocco and it was very hard to communicate but the challenge was fun. It’s interesting to see the various ways people can communicate even with a language barrier. 

Describe your typical day in Barcelona A typical day would start with me waking up around 8 or 8:30 in the morning, because I had class starting at 9. I would grab a croissant to eat on the way to school for breakfast, and throw food in my backpack for lunch later in the day. I lived in the Gothic quarter, and my school was in the next neighborhood over. It only took me about 10 minutes to walk to class, but some students had to commute as much as 40 minutes via metro. I really lucked out with my homestay. My walk to school took me past the Barcelona Cathedral everyday, and it's a big tourist destination. If I wasn’t careful I could get stuck running around large groups of tourists, so I always tried to leave early enough so I wouldn’t be late for class. My school was small, and my spanish class only had four people in it. We had class Monday-Thursday, and I had spanish everyday since I chose the intensive level. I liked starting my day in spanish because it set me up to be used to speaking in spanish for the rest of my day. I was lucky to only ever have two classes a day, so me and my friends were usually done around 1pm everyday. Unless I had a large assignment to work on, me and my friends would usually hop on the metro and go to the beach which was only a few stops away from school. We’d eat bread and cheese and relax usually until 5, when I would go home to spend time with my host family. I had two younger siblings in my host family and a roommate who was another exchange student, and I loved to hang out with them. In Spain, dinner is not usually served until around 10pm, so there's a small meal around 5 called mierda. It’s usually just a sandwich or some pasta, to hold you over until dinner. My host mom would come home from work and play music while she cooked dinner, and this is when I would work on homework. Then we would all have dinner together and talk about our days and our plans for the rest of the week, and then I would head to bed usually around midnight. In the united states it can be seen as irresponsible to stay up so late but in Spain, it was very normal to stay up until midnight or even 1am depending on what you had to do the next day. 

Haub School student studies abroad in Spain

What was the most meaningful aspect of your time abroad? I think the most meaningful aspect of my time abroad was my host family. My host mom, Monica, is the most kind and caring woman I have ever met. Her and I would sit and talk for hours almost every day. She always gave the best advice, was there for me and my roommate if we ever got homesick, and she really made the adjustment to living in a foreign country easy. I also had two younger boys I lived with, a 7 year old and a 13 year old. They were instantly comfortable around me and my roommate and made us feel right at home. Me and the 13 year old would sit and work on homework together and he would always tease me if I was using too much english. Sometimes he would cut me off and only speak to me in spanish. Sure, it was annoying at times but he was probably the most helpful when it came to helping me improve my spanish. 

What impact did the program have on you personally? Academically? Personally studying abroad made me a much more confident individual. When you are in a foreign country you can’t expect others to take care of you or look out for you. I even took a trip to Switzerland by myself and when it’s just you, you can’t second guess yourself. Academically I was challenged in ways I don’t think I could have been in the United States. My spanish professor took a different approach to teaching spanish that I have never experienced before, and since she was a native speaker, it was much easier to learn from her. I honestly think she only spoke a full sentence in English once or twice the entire semester. It was a challenge to not be able to use english when I was stuck, but I think it was essential to my education. 


Haub School student studies abroad in Spain

What advice would you give a prospective applicant? If it’s in your power to go abroad, do it. The experiences you’ll have abroad, you will never be able to get any other way. Traveling to a new country is one thing, but being able to call it home is another. 

What other locations were you able to visit during your time abroad? Switzerland, Morocco, Ireland, England, Scotland, The Netherlands

Answers and photos provided by Haub School student, Maddie Reid

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