IES Madrid- Language and Area Studies
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Abigail Luke

Majors: Psychology & Political Science
Minors: Spanish & Global and International Studies
Hometown: West Chester, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about the vast enrichment funding available to liberal arts students through my LA 401 class I enrolled in last semester. Through this course, I learned about how many resources we have access to as liberal arts students. This enrichment funding has been vital to my study abroad experience, and I am so glad to have been informed of it.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience studying abroad in Madrid, Spain has by far been the most impactful of all of my endeavors at Penn State. Living in a foreign country not only has widened my world view, but also it has pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible. I lived with a host family and enrolled in classes taught completely in Spanish. I feel as if I have immersed myself in this culture through volunteering at local schools and completing a language exchange with a Spanish college aged student. Outside of Spain, I have been able to travel throughout Europe and be exposed to so many different cultures. On a personal level, I feel as if this experience has helped me better understand myself. While studying abroad has had its share of ups and downs, I believe that I will return to Penn State with a more comprehensive picture of both myself and the others around the world. I am thankful to the College of the Liberal Arts for providing enrichment funding to supplement this amazing experience.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience has had a vast impact on my academic life. I now will be continuing my study of Spanish and completing a Spanish major. My experience in Spain inspired me to continue to explore my understanding of this amazing language and culture. I have a new understanding of Spanish speaking and comprehension through my completion of 15 credits taught entirely in Spanish. Additionally, my ability to travel throughout Spain exposed me to cultural intricacies of which I was previously unaware. I am excited to continue studying Spanish at Penn State. I hope to continue to improve my Spanish abilities and gain as much exposure as possible to the language.

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

I plan to attend law school and follow a politically driven career path. This experience has enabled me to adopt a more globally-focused mindset that will be pivotal as I continue my studies. My widened world view will be an asset as I continue through my study of politics, both domestic and global. I also hope to find a career that involves Spanish. I hope to work within Spanish speaking communities and put my speaking and comprehension abilities to good use. Prior to law school, I also am considering a gap year teaching English in a Spanish-speaking country. While in Spain, I volunteered twice a week in a 1st grade classroom and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I have left my study abroad experience with a better understanding on how to direct my future endeavors.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would recommend studying abroad to all liberal arts students. As Liberal Arts students, we are constantly reminded of the importance of global thinking and cultural awareness, but it was not until I studied abroad that I fully understood these concepts. I am returning to Penn State as an individual with a newfound global consciousness that will propel me to success in both my academic and professional careers. All Liberal Arts students would benefit greatly from a global experience. The knowledge gained from the cultural immersion experienced abroad is an asset to all career paths, especially those related to liberal arts.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program was one of the driving forces in my study abroad experience, and I am so thankful for the financial support that I was provided with. The study abroad/internship requirement provides students with such valuable life experiences that supplement in-class learning. I believe that my study abroad experience not only taught me more than I've learned in 8 years of Spanish classes, but also helped me better understand myself. My time in Madrid will be something I treasure for the rest of my life, and the Paterno Fellows Program was a contributing factor to this amazing experience.

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



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