As part of their positions, CGIS Advisors embark on site visits to visit students and ensure that our programs are the best they can be. Intercultural Programs Advisor Juliana Mesa recently traveled to Madrid, Spain to visit students attending the Advanced Language and Culture in Madrid, Spain program. She spoke with Chloe Collon, a junior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, studying Economics and Spanish.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Juliana Mesa: Why did you choose to study abroad on this program?
Chloe Collon: I chose to study abroad in Spain because I wanted to improve my oral fluency, because I think that's something you need—to immerse yourself in a culture because you can't get that experience in the classroom. And then I chose Madrid because I wanted a big city, as opposed to something like Grenada, which is a little bit smaller.
JM: What is something that you're taking away from this experience? Is there a specific story that you'd like to share?
CC: I think the most I'm taking away from this experience is really learning how to adapt to unknown situations and kind of go more with the flow. Coming here was definitely a big culture shock at first, but it helps to relax and just kind of accept things as they came to me. And then it worked out more smoothly. So I recommend when you're coming here, to just try to do as much as you can, experience as many new things as you can, and have an open mind about it.
JM: That is really good advice. Do you have any specific moments of culture shock that you remember?
CC: I think that everyone's go to is the hours of eating; lunch being at, like, 3 or 4 p.m, and then no one's eating dinner until like, 9 or 10 p.m.
JM: Actually, that happened to me today. I was walking around town and it was, like, 12:30. I don't know why my brain was like, ‘You should have lunch.’ I guess my brain is conditioned to have lunch around noon. So I went to the restaurant and the waiter was like, ‘Are you sure? Like, are you? Because it's not lunchtime.’ But, you're right. It is hard to adjust to it.
CC: I try to decently stay on the same schedule. So I don't eat dinner at 10 p.m. I usually eat around seven or eight, which is later than home, but yeah, sometimes I'm going to restaurants and eating when it's still during their lunch hours at, like, six.
JM: Are you staying in an apartment or residence hall?
CC: I'm in an apartment. And I have friends that are having good experiences in homestays, but I think if you don't want to do a homestay, I would recommend doing an apartment. Because you have more control on what you eat and what you do with your time.
JM: I think people that choose bigger cities also like the independence of being in a bigger city. So yeah, I understand that. That makes sense. So why should students participate in this program?
CC: I think if you're passionate about improving your language, and you really want to learn and put the time in to learn, you should participate. Because this isn't a common experience. It’s not like you're just abroad, and you're not doing school work, and you don't have to go to class. You do still have to go to class and do your work, but you still have time to travel and stuff. But if you're just looking to go and study abroad just for fun, then that's probably not the program for you. You probably should want to leave this with more knowledge.
JM: I think that's very important to bring up to students. And I do try to mention advising because it's not just about traveling, there's definitely the education part of it as well. I don't know if that has been a big part for you; the other part of intercultural experience is like, immersing yourself in a different culture, seeing their point of view or their perspective is so different. And also developing your own resiliency, independence, all of that. What about that aspect of studying abroad? Have you experienced any cultural shock?
CC: I think that's probably been most interesting to me, and that's why I'm glad I did the internship. Because, like being able to talk to the other teachers, and even the older students and being able to talk about how the school system is different, how their applications for college are different, what they do when they spend time with friends, where they're from—it's just all very interesting. And I think that learning about other people and about how life is different here has been the best thing about the trips.
JM: That’s really good to hear. I'm glad. What do you think you will remember most about your experience abroad in 20 years?
CC: I think what I’ll remember most is the people I met here. And that's why I think it's important to definitely branch out and not only meet the people in your program, but try to meet natives or just people that aren't from the U.S. Because the classes are great and everything, but being able to experience so many different cultures in such a short period of time, whether you're traveling internationally or just even traveling within the country, you get so much variety of people and everything. So I think that's what I'll take away the most.
JM: I don't know if there's anything you'd like to mention about funding or scholarships. Did you apply for any that are very relevant in the process? You would have wished you had more advice on how to do it?
CC: Not necessarily more advice, but I did apply for scholarships, because any help is great. And I ended up getting I think it was just one of the study abroad scholarships. for the semester, so that was great.
JM: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
CC: I would just highly recommend studying abroad in general, if you can do it, definitely do it. You're probably never gonna have the time in your life to do this again.
Questions about Advanced Language and Culture in Madrid, Spain? Contact Chloe at email@example.com.
This interview was edited and compiled by Anna Fifelski.