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CIEE - Seville
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Madeleine Hughes

Major: Global and International Studies, Comparative Literature
Hometown: Stroudsburg, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

My sister studied abroad while at school and was always encouraging me to do the same. Starting in my sophomore year, I began to look around the study abroad website and was able to narrow down my options based on which countries spoke Spanish, which cultures I was interested in seeing, which gave me freedom to travel to other places, and which was the best option financially. After talking some more to the advisers in the study abroad office as well as my previous Spanish professors at Penn State and teachers in high school, I decided that the CIEE Seville Language and Culture program was the best choice for me.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I really felt that I grew during this trip. [...] I learned the value of independence and being able to enjoy your own company.

The first couple of weeks after my arrival, my study abroad experience was not going as I expected. It was still a little awkward with my host family because of the language barrier, the people in my group were not as I anticipated, and I felt like everyone else in the program spoke better Spanish than I did so I was worried about my class. However, after some encouragement from my parents and taking a day to wander the city by myself, everything turned around.

I was lucky enough with my program to get to travel to many different places. Every weekend, they had an organized trip for us to other cities in Spain, as well as other parts of Europe. It was so nice to be able to go and not have to worry about all the stress of organizing hotels and tours because they were already organized through CIEE. It made the trips so much more relaxing and let us focus on school during the weekdays. CIEE provided us with so many cultural activities in both these cities we visited, as well as throughout Seville. I loved going on all the tours and to the different activities to learn more about Seville. Because everything was through CIEE, we really had to push ourselves to get out there and immerse ourselves in the lives of the locals. I did not meet as many Spanish people as I had thought I would. Of course, that is obviously on me, but it was just something that went differently from how I expected.

I really felt that I grew during this trip. Although I did end up making some great friends, I learned the value of independence and being able to enjoy your own company. Some of my favorite days here were those when I went off by myself to explore the city. I actually ended up skipping one of the last weekend trips just to stay and enjoy Seville without classes. I learned that it is best not to form certain expectations because sometimes it's okay that they're not met. Things may have been different than I anticipated, but they were still great.

Overall, I loved my trip and am so happy with the program I chose. I felt that I got so much out of it and got to see and do so much. I've taken it as a learning experience so now I know for the future to take time by myself to immerse myself in the true culture of a place.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Through this experience, I was really hoping to improve my Spanish skills as well as broaden my knowledge of other cultures. Through living with a homestay that spoke no English, I was forced to practice the language. Although it was frustrating at times, it helped me to improve and also taught me to understand others when they have trouble communicating in English. Through taking a class that was taught fully in Spanish, with all the exams and papers in Spanish, I was forced to practice the language even more. It is sometimes easy to get lazy when trying to learn a language, but having to focus on everything my professor was saying and really doing my best to understand the language, helped me immensely to improve and learn about the Sevillano accent.

The subject matter of my classes also taught me a lot about other cultures and customs. My first class was Culture and Cuisine. Although it was a gastronomy course, we learned a lot about the three main religions of Andalusia and their histories and incorporated them into what we learned about the food. It helped me to see what influenced Seville throughout the years and made it what it was today. The second class I took was about arts and architecture. Being able to point out certain characteristics of buildings can tell so much about the history and is a skill I am very happy to now have. When my parents came to visit, I was able to show them all I learned about the history without needing an audio guide. Taking classes in another culture was very enlightening because although all my classmates were American, my professors were from Spain and had different customs, like no snacking in class!

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I am still unsure of exactly what I want to do as a career, which is why I am in a major that gives me many options. After graduating, I would really like to work either for a publishing company, or a non-profit organization. Having the chance to live in New York and try to move up within a company excites me and is something I have a lot of interest in for right when I get out of school. Working for a non-profit would give me so many opportunities to help the world as well as travel. Through my study abroad experience, I have gotten the chance to interact with people very different from myself and come to understand a new culture. I believe that being understanding towards people different from ourselves is an important quality no matter what job we have, but especially for my goals it is a necessity.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend studying abroad to other students, specifically those within the liberal arts. Understanding others is an important quality to have no matter where we want to go in life. I think an important goal that everyone should have is to become more worldly and this experience can help that. College is the perfect time to have this kind of experience and study abroad is a great way to immerse yourself in another culture rather than just spending a week somewhere on vacation. Study abroad has been an incredible, eye-opening experience that I would recommend to anyone.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.

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