Studying in Barcelona, Spain

Studying Abroad in Barcelona, Spain 

“Que bonita la vida, que curiosa tu forma de andar”

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I saw this phrase written on the inside of a stall in a cafe on my second day of my study abroad semester in Barcelona, Spain. It translates to something like, “What a beautiful life, how curious the way you wander.”

I still resonate with it after I’ve returned from my six months abroad. My experience has given me an education about culture, people, language, politics, history, and the world. I learned about myself, my own independence, potential, and leadership skills. I am incredibly grateful for the experiences and knowledge I gained from studying in Barcelona, and it will continue to positively affect me for the rest of my life.

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Barcelona, Spain 

The Global Leadership Initiative

 and Studying in Barcelona

The Global Leadership Initiative 

Through the University of Montana’s GLI program, I was able to pack up my life, and move half way around the world to study at La Universitat de Autómoma de Barcelona, or UAB.  As an English literature major with a Pre-PA (physician Assistant) emphasis, I chose Public and Global Health as my global theme and eventually decided to focus on mental health as my global challenge. I had some rather specific requirements to go abroad. I like to think that UAB chose me. It was the only available university in a Spanish speaking environment, with a psychology course for my GLI challenge, and English literature courses.

One of the most valuable experiences I had was taking a class called Ámbitos de Aplicación en Psicología de la Salud, or Areas of Application of Health Psychology. I took the entire course in Spanish, and I can safely say it was one of the hardest things I have ever accomplished. It really showed me how difficult a language barrier can be and also helped improve my Spanish immensely. I learned about the diverse psychological and mental effects of other health conditions like diabetes, obesity, fibromyalgia, hospice, and cancer.  Not only will it be useful information for GLI and my professional career as a PA, but I gained an understanding of how language barriers can affect the quality of health care. After my time in Barcelona, becoming fluent in Spanish has become a priority for my personal and professional goals.

My International Family 

One of the highlights of going abroad was becoming part of a family of international students from all over the world. Studying in Barcelona introduced me to many new people; we  were able to travel together, share problems and experiences together, and ultimately became life long friends.

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Exploring Barcelona

Barcelona is located in a region of Spain called Catalunya.  Many Catalan people distinguish themselves as Catalan, rather than Spanish. The people in the region often speak Catalan and especially cherish their own language, traditions, and history.

Barcelona is a different world than the sparsely populated, northwestern U.S. that I’ve always known. It’s a buzzing city of 1.6 million people. There’s a constant stream of people casually bustling down the street with deliberate destinations. Ordering a coffee, you will hear a blend of Spanish, Catalan, and English in the background babble. You might bump into a Spaniard, a Portuguese, or a Frenchman. It’s a compact city full of international diversity and a quiet buzz of constant excitement.

El Gótic

El Gótic, or the Gothic Quarter, is full of small shops, tapas restaurants, bars, and apartments. The winding paths and Gothic style make it a popular destination for travelers and locals alike. I used to wander for hours in the Gothic Quarter, and loved finding new cafés to sip some café con leche (coffee with milk) and people watch.

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El Gótic, or the Gothic Quarter feels like a city maze, with narrow cobblestone streets that bend and twist unpredictably.

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I was fortunate enough to have my family visit me during my time in Barcelona. Behind my dad, sister, and myself, Pont Gótic is one of the most famous images of the Gothic Quarter. 

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The tan buildings are usually five or six stories high, with layers of balconies and intricate Gothic styles.

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Looking up at the balconies you might see Catalan flags, plants, or drying laundry. The Catalan flag was often paired with yellow ribbon symbolizing the support of the release of a few Catalan politicians from prison. With recent political movements towards Catalan independence from Spain, the Catalan flag was more prominent than the Spanish flag. 

Montserrat 

Just outside of Barcelona, Montserrat is an incredible monastery nestled into a unique, towering mountain of curious rock formations. After a train ride and a gondola to the top, the place attracts a curious combination of hikers, climbers, tourists, and religious pilgrims coming from all over the world.

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The monastery seems small compared to the towering rock formations of Montserrat. 

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With the monastery to the right, and the mountain to the left, the transition between the two creates a unique blend of natural and architectural beauty. 

La Sagrada Família 

La Sagrada Família is an identifying highlight of Barcelona. Planned by the famous architect, Antoni Goudí, it is still under construction today. Throughout Barcelona there are many architectural works by Goudí, the Sagada Familia being the most famous. The church’s intricate Gothic exterior contains a progressive symbolism for the birth and death of Christ. It is said that Gaudí planned the church to be just short of the tallest point in Barcelona, with the reasoning that man’s creation shouldn’t reach higher than God’s creation.

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The inside is filled with changing colors from the large stain glass windows, and the branching pillars inside vaguely mimic trees and the image of sunlight filtering through a colorful canopy.

Bunkers del Carmel

The Bunkers de Carmel offers one of the best views of the city. As one of the highest points of the city, the ruins of an old anti-aircraft base sit at the top with a 360 degree view.

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My directly above my sister and I, the Sagrada Família’s tall spires stick out in the middle of the city. Far in the background, the Mediterranean Sea blends into the sky. 

La Barceloneta  

Right next to the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona offers a port, a marina, and beautiful sandy beaches.

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The W Hotel, (shark fin shaped building) is another identifying building in Barcelona’s skyline. 

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Barcelona is full of pedestrians, bikers, and skateboarders enjoying the sun, especially along the beach. 

Plaça d’Espanya

Plaça d’Espanya, or Plaza Espana,  makes an impression even from a distance. The towering dome of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) is the national museum of Catalan visual art, displayed impressively with massive colorful fountains and preceded with many, many stairs.

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What I Learned 

Studying in Spain was the experience of a life time. I had the best moments of my life, and some of the worst. I learned more about myself, what I am able to accomplish, and how I want to spend my time and effort. I was integrated into Spanish culture and gained new perspectives of Catalunya, Spain, the U.S., and the rest of the world. I returned with ambition to become fluent in Spanish and to continue pursuing my GLI goals, personal goals, and professional goals. I am incredibly thankful for my experience in Spain and cannot wait to apply what I have learned to the rest of my life.

 

 

Healthcare in Uganda

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to live in Iganga, Uganda for 12 weeks and volunteer at the Iganga District Hospital. This hospital serves the entire district and surrounding area, despite having a severe lack of resources. Many times, if they run out of supplies, the health professionals will either improvise or have the attendants (usually the patient’s family) buy the items. For example, there was one time when they needed to catheterize a delivering mother to drain her bladder so that the baby could pass without injury. They had run out of catheters, so instead they had to tear IV tubing and use that, which is a LOT more painful than a normal catheter. But, they had no choice since the alternative would have been much worse. Observing these situations and decisions allowed me to investigate my global challenge of “Providing high quality healthcare with limited resources”. Most of the time I was surprised at how resourceful the midwives, nurses, and doctors were. There were sometimes though when even they were helpless to do anything, because there was absolutely nothing that could be done. There is no alternative to basic supplies such as oxygen, ultrasounds, and electricity. I witnessed several deaths that wouldn’t have occurred if there had been supplies.

Since I am still a pre-med student, and my highest level of training is Certified Nursing Assistant, I didn’t perform any procedures, or do anything that is outside the scope of practice of a pre-med student/CNA (despite the nurses’ insistence that it was okay in Uganda). So, my time was spent observing, and helping with tasks such as cleaning, retrieving supplies, wrapping up newborns, and other basic tasks that often get overlooked or put off due to a lack of staff. I also spent a lot of time connecting with patients. I learned that holding a hand communicates empathy, respect, and compassion more than an attempt to speak the local language. I gained leadership skills not by overseeing a large project or procedure, but by observing those who were in charge. I was able to observe how they lead, and what works in the Ugandan culture and what doesn’t.

Outside of the hospital, I spent a lot of time with my host family. I got to know them and learn about their culture and beliefs as well. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences between our cultures. I was also able to learn about their views on public and global health issues.

Going into this experience, I knew that I was interested in global health, and specifically practicing as a doctor in a developing country. My time in Uganda cemented this desire. I had a lot of amazing experiences, but it was the difficult experiences that taught me the most. There were several heartbreaking moments that made me stop and consider why I wanted to go into a profession where these moments occur every day. Each time, I came to the conclusion that it is the moments in between the sad ones, and the connections with patients that makes the whole job worth it. For example, when you tell a mother who is mourning the death of one of her twins that they were able to save the other twin, and you see the hope go back in her eyes as she realizes she still has one child to take care of and love. The fact that I was able to connect with that mom and comfort her during her heartbreak, and offer her hope embodies why I want to become a doctor. I am so thankful for the amazing experiences that I had in Uganda!

-Kirsten Tucker

 

Exploring environmental consciousness in a town of 4 million people

When I moved to Athens, Greece approximately 8 months ago, a quick Google search informed me that the population of Athens was no more than 700,000 people; a size relatively similar to Denver or Seattle, a size that seemed intimidating to a girl who has never lived in a city over 70,000, yet also a size that sparked excitement and a sense of adventure. Upon arriving in the city, I was quick to discover that although the census says the population of the city is 700,000, since the year 2011 the actual population of the city combined with the vast urban sprawl has soared well above the 3.5 million mark. I travelled to Greece to study abroad as well as explore the topic of my GLI global theme centered around sustainability and environmental consciousness. What I found upon arriving was an experience that nothing could have prepared me for, from the awe-inspiring physical beauty, to the intricacies and complexities of Greek people and culture. Studying these themes in a city that tops the list of Europe’s most populous cities was a task that taught me more about society’s interaction with the environment, as well as served as a profound comparison between the sustainability strategies that are being implemented in an urban hub and the efforts we take in the–mostly–environmentally aware city of Missoula, MT. Not only did I have the chance to study an environment that I never have studied before, but I also experienced what it felt like to feel so incredibly small in a place so incredibly big.

Studying abroad was one of the most solitary experiences that I have had. Although I made great friends, when it came down to it, there were decisions I had to make and situations that I found myself in that forced a competence and an independence out of me that I had always thought was there but had never been forced to use. I participated in a youth conference focused on environmental justice and global peace that allowed me to apply my practical leadership skills such as serving as a youth leader and educator in a topic that I am passionate about. In addition, while living abroad I was able to apply a different kind of leadership skill, one that involved being my own leader by being able to assess if a situation would be a positive or negative experience, and figuring out how to be my own reliable source of comfort and happiness.

Living in Athens was incredible and by far one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been in my life, although not without its challenges. The accessibility to natural space in Missoula that I have come to take for granted was not present in my living situation in Athens, allowing me to instead study and accept urban life as my own, one of the biggest moments of adaptation that I have had the chance to experience.  Through living in a place vastly different from my own, both in size and culture, I was able to better develop my ideas and perspectives about the global issues that both Greeks and Missoulians face, and in turn how to better develop research questions that address local sustainability and environmental consciousness, and how those sustainability practices can better be implemented on an international and cross-cultural scale.

 

Collaborative Conservation in the Blackfoot Watershed

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is one of the largest nonprofit conservation organizations in the world. They have conserved over 100-million acres across 72 countries with the help of one million members. There is a small and ambitious branch of TNC located in Missoula, Montana. In the last two decades, they have carried out the largest single private conservation purchase in history, right here in our backyards.

In the push to settle and develop the West, the federal government used a rectangular survey system that split the land into systematic boxes. Attempting to entice railroad companies, the federal government gave them alternating 1-mile parcels of land. Over time, these railroad holding were sold to ranchers, settlers and timber companies. The checkerboard of ownerships continues to create enormous challenges for land managers today.

BFWatershedMap_Poster_02_17_16.jpgThe Blackfoot Challenge, 2016: http://blackfootchallenge.org/?cat=57

Plum Creek Timber Company came to own more than one million acres of this former railroad land in Montana. When Plum Creek began to transition away from logging, TNC saw an opportunity to take on a complex and innovative conservation strategy to condense ownership of this important landscape. As an interim owner, TNC is holding an extensive collaborative process to work with neighbors and partner organizations to redistribute the land to permanent conservation owners. This landscape is the southern tip of the Crown of the Continent, which remains one of a dozen places left in the world that has not has a single recorded post-industrial plant or animal extinction. It is vital habitat as well as historic, working land. The project will ensure its conservation for wildlife, rural livelihoods and recreationists.

COCE_Boundary_CMP_2013Wildlife Conservation Society North America, 2013: https://northamerica.wcs.org/Wild-Places/Crown-of-the-Continent.aspx

My global theme is natural resources and sustainability. I chose to do my Beyond the Classroom experience in Montana because I wanted to develop a deeper understanding of the groundbreaking work happening in the part of the world I already call home. My original plan was to participate in a three-month internship. I quickly realized that to work on a project that exists on a decadal timeline, I was going to need to keep showing up if I wanted to add something of value. My official GLI internship has been the beginning of a much longer relationship with TNC and their partners.

I am a communications and coordination intern, which means I am both creating storytelling materials and coordinating collaborative workgroups and events. I have had the opportunity to attend many meetings and observe collaboration in action. I have practiced taking notes and organizing them in such a way that captures the important information the group wants to carry forward. I have practiced setting up an online database for information sharing. I have practiced designing timelines and delegating responsibilities. I have practiced holding my colleagues (and myself) accountable to those timelines. I have practiced writing invitations and dealing with the messy logistics of other people’s schedules. I have practiced my interview, photographic and writing skills. I have been challenged to be resourceful when I lack experience and knowledge. I have learned to ask loud and clear for the materials and information that I need in order to do my job well. Most important off all, I have built relationships with some of the most passionate and intelligent people I have ever met. I feel so lucky to have a window into such exciting conservation work in the West and to actually play a role, however modest, in moving it forward.

Thank you to Jeanne Loftus for connecting me with The Nature Conservancy and thank you to the Franke Family for funding my work with them. This has been and continues to be the most challenging and rewarding set of projects I have done thus far in college.

A World Away: Rural India

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I set out for India, to a rural village called Loni in the province of Maharashtra (the same province which contains Mumbai), with a lot of preconceptions, a lot of ideas about how it would be, and a lot of curiosity about how the people live. Some of my thoughts on how things would be were correct, but there were many things which broke my preconceptions.

My Franke GLI global theme is Global Public Health, and my challenge is related to mental health treatment, perception and stigmas, and how it relates to physical health and society. Considering that around 99% of the population is religious in one way or another (with over 80% being Hindu) and the primary occupation is agricultural, I thought this experience in Social Health and Development at the Center for Social Medicine (CSM) would fit nicely with my own interests and studies. The CSM organization is a locally started NGO which has totally transformed the local and surrounding areas of Loni. As a branch entity of the Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences – Deemed University (PIMS-DU), the CSM works to expand the rural and tribal populations’ access to healthcare and livelihood services. This comes in the form of primary healthcare centers, mobile medical outreach, HIV/AIDS migrant worker screening camps, school health education programs, partnerships with government and NGO organizations to rescue children and women in compromising situations, and much more. They are constantly working to promote the health and welfare of the rural population, women, and vulnerable groups to achieve the best outcomes possible. The work they have done in rural India is truly amazing and inspiring.

Rural India is a place of chaotic fluidity. Many people of different religious beliefs live together, oftentimes within the same village, and are mostly non-contentious with one another. Traffic laws seem to be non-existent (though that is a common attribute I found in rural and urban areas), and yet there is a flow that somehow manages to work despite this. This flow appears to extend into the medical arena as well. Doctors at the local hospital operated quite differently to the states. Many rural farmers and workers are still illiterate and, despite the reach of technology, run off a more relaxed perception of time. There is no making appointments. This means that through the day there are times of high-volume and times of no-volume. It really keeps you on your toes. This combined with the variety of extremely progressed and “rare” cases made it very interesting to be around. I had many opportunities to witness interactions, treatments, and cultural norms which you don’t see in documentaries. I also got to know the more minute aspects, since the slow times gave me ample opportunity to have discussions with the doctors and students. All around, my clinical experiences were ones I could only have had in rural India.

 

The public outreach work and rural postings were quite rewarding. Being able to see the people and the children in their normal, daily routine was both intriguing and fun. The children were all so cute! It was inspiring to see what is being done by both the government and private organizations to help elevate the health of the people. The number of experiences are far too many to write about in just one blog.

All I can really say is this: Go see it for yourself! Experience the challenges, the successes, the food, the people, the weather, and the wonder! It wasn’t an easy experience, but I’m so thankful for all the support and assistance I received to go on this life-changing journey!

Joseph | Exercise Science & Global Public Health | Summer 2018

Learning to Communicate in Latin America

 

 

A defining moment for me in my out-of-classroom experience was when I had a lengthy conversation, fully in Spanish, with a guide from UNESCO World Heritage about moss. Specifically, we spoke about the moss stuck to some ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru, but the moss was the focus of the discussion.

This conversation about a mundane plant (albeit in an extraordinary place) will stick with me because it made me realize that I had accomplished my goal. When I arrived in Santiago, Chile for my semester abroad, I struggled to ask for directions. Speaking Spanish was terrifying—what if my accent was horrible? What if I couldn’t conjugate my verbs correctly? Well, I learned very quickly that my Spanish accent is just awful, and my conjugations are rarely correct, but it doesn’t matter. The guide at Machu Picchu did not care that I didn’t use the right subjunctive tense, he cared that I asked about the ecosystem of the site and was happy to answer my questions. Gaining the ability to exchange ideas and communicate in another language was the reason I wanted to study abroad.

After taking years of Spanish classes in the U.S., my capacity to have a one-on-one conversation with a native speaker was embarrassingly limited. I don’t fault my teachers or professors for this, it’s just how our education system works. In a typical classroom setting, a teacher lectures and students listen. This is effective to teach a mass of students proper grammar and it helps them understand the language. However, having to produce that language, out loud and in real time, is a whole new ball game.

I chose to study in Chile for its incredible nature (think Andes Mountains, Patagonia and the Atacama Desert) and its interesting political history (think Spanish colonization and Pinochet dictatorship). Luckily, it also turned out to be the Latin American country known for its extremely difficult accent and dialect. I say this is lucky because if I am proficient in Chilean Spanish, I’m can speak it anywhere. After four months of living with a host family, taking classes at a Chilean university and having to accomplish everyday tasks, like taking the bus or buying a coffee, my Spanish is exceptionally better. Although I do have more to learn.

I’m a journalism student and the ability to communicate is key for my future career. I want to ask lots of questions, investigate important issues and inform people about their own communities and those on the other side of the world. I can only do that job justice by communicating with a wide variety of people living diverse experiences. People should know that as Machu Picchu continues to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Peru, its ecosystem is changing, which will require visitation restrictions in the future. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t been able to speak Spanish with the guide, who was friendly and eager to tell me more.

I could write about hundred stories, just like my experience at Machu Picchu, from my semester in Latin America.  I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have had these interactions, improve my Spanish and learn more about moss in Peru.

Life in the Capital of New Zealand

This last spring semester of 2018, I left the classroom to set out on a new exciting adventure. I headed down south to spend the semester studying in Wellington, New Zealand. I arrived in the capital of New Zealand, a city bigger than I had ever experienced in my life. Living not only in a new country, but in a large busy city was all new to me coming from the quiet city of Missoula.  Wellington is a unique city in the sense that it contains multiple different enviroments. For example, I could walk from city central, to the harbor, and then to the hills—home of their famous botanical gardens, within minutes. Everything I could possibly want to explore, was just a few steps outside my flat. While in New Zealand I was able to experience the real “kiwi” lifestyle. This lifestyle involved drinking lots of flat whites, site-seeing the breathtaking countrysides and crystal clear rivers with monstrous brown trout, and of course tramping through the land of the Lord of Rings. The exploration was endless. However, through all this exploration I gained something more than just experiences—I gained the skill of leadership. Traveling alone allowed me to gain confidence in my independence, which in return allowed me to be confident leading others when traveling in groups and while working with other students for my courses.

While in New Zealand I not only explored a beautiful country, I was also able to study in a country that taught differently than our home University at UM. Gaining more knowledge on my global challenge of mental health, I took different psychology course at Victoria University of Wellington. These courses allowed me and pushed me to think more critically about not just how the mind works, but also the issues that arise in the psyche as well. By studying psychology in a different country, I was able to experience cultures from all over the world and come to a conclusion that mental health is a leading problem worldwide. On top of my studies, I attended several mindfulness workshops on how important it is to be present and not get caught up in the material world. With the combination of experiences through the psychology courses and workshops, I’m excited to be able to apply what I learned into our GLI Senior Capstone project on different mental health issues at a local level in our very own town of Missoula.

Studying abroad was one of the most challenging, yet, rewarding experiences this far in my academic career. It allows you to open your mind and experience things you never thought you were missing out on. It’s an experience of a lifetime and one everybody should take advantage of.

Southern France

My study abroad experience in Aix-en-Provence was one that has shaped me into the person I am today. I was able to experience different lifestyles, cultures, and ideas all in a short period of four months. During my first three years in Missoula, I watched as the political climate of the US changed drastically and I wanted to discover how other countries viewed the political side of religion. For my GLI experience, I planned to take a deeper look into immigrant and refugee issues.

My host city, Aix-en-Provence, is situated in the south of France, only thirty minutes from the second largest city, Marseille. Marseille is starkly different to the rest of France. Because it is located on the Mediterranean Sea, it has become a new home to many immigrant families, many from Syria, Libya, and Northern Africa.

From the bustling cities of Paris and Nice to the small villages of Arles and Avignon, the French love to spend time together. Sharing a meal, having a cigarette, or drinking a glass of wine is necessary to every day life. Their culture is based on tight knit relationships: young people often live with their families much longer than in the US, and even after moving out, will still visit regularly to spend time together. I really appreciated this part of the culture, whether it be a couple walking in the park, old men playing “pétanque” every Saturday, or a group of young high school boys eating pizza at their usual spot at lunch. This also made it difficult to understand the French view of the “other”. Their perception of foreigners can be negative, and I struggled to find acceptance as an American. I can understand that sometimes people associate stereotypes and political leaders with the people from that country. But it made me wonder how they perceive immigrants and refugees? Through research, I learned that France has struggles to define who the “French” man or woman is, with immigration being a major political issue throughout the years. I believe it is deeply rooted in the French history, dating back to the French revolution and the freedom from religion. France is working towards a more tolerant view of other religions and others in general. I hope to bring to the US a new perspective on religious tolerance and immigration – two issues that have shaped the political climate today.

We have seen in these past few months, the detainment of immigrant children in the US. I think this issue is more prevalent that ever and is fueled by hate, not reason. As Americans, I do believe it is our responsibility to be the change we want to see in the world. We not only are privileged to have the freedom to do so, but the resources as well. GLI has given me the platform to make a difference in our community, to what I hope leads to a difference in our country.

My Abroad Experience- Melbourne, Australia

If you’re looking for an urban adventure filled with culture and kangaroos, Melbourne Australia is the place for you. Although it is the second biggest city in Australia, it’s easy to get lost in the beautiful outdoors that surround it. The Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island, and countless national parks are just a few of the adventures that one may come across. Not to mention the city itself, being the art and culture capital of Australia. The streets are filled with people from every country imaginable. Because of this beautiful mix of new humanities and adventure, I decided to go to Melbourne for a semester as my out of the classroom experience.

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The choice of where to study abroad wasn’t easy. I wanted to find a place that would focus on my GLI theme of humanities, but I also wanted to be somewhere that I had no great knowledge of because I craved adventure. I have traveled to many countries, but after thinking about it, I decided Australia would be a new experience that I may not have the chance to do again. Melbourne is named the culture capital of the country, and also was a bigger city than I’ve ever had the chance to live in. It was perfect.

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Upon arrival, I immediately noticed that there were more people from different nationalities than I had ever seen in one place in my life. This was just at the airport. My school I attended, La Trobe University, is actually one third exchange students, creating a comfortable space to meet and greet students from all over the world. My first night I ate dinner with a girl from Malaysia. This was a memorable experience due to the fact that I had never had a chance to learn about Malaysia’s culture. I went to bed with thoughts of how different it would be to live in her world rather than mine in the United States.

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Throughout my time in Australia, I attended many different cultural events in the city. Whether it was a Holi Festival, an authentic Middle Eastern restaurant, or even just surfing with Australians, each experience left me with a better understanding of how truly different the values and customs are from each culture. This gave me a grasp on my GLI theme and challenge that I hope to apply in class this year. I now have first hand experience on how important it truly is to become knowledgeable about as many different nationalities as possible. It not only opens one’s eyes to the endless world that is outside of the United States, it also puts a new perspective on how important it is to honor and celebrates every individuals culture.

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All in all, I am proud of my experience in Melbourne Australia. I had to take steps that I have not before in my life. Being alone in a country you have never been to and don’t know anything about isn’t easy. I knew that I had to buck up, enjoy whatever experience life threw at me, and make decisions for myself that would create the best abroad experience I could have. Although the United States isn’t the most respected country by the rest of the world, (I had a few experiences where that was proved) I pushed myself each day to go to class, share my voice, and show that Americans can be open minded and leaders.

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Studying abroad is an experience that I believe everyone should take part in. Of course it is fun, but it also creates a more open mind, a more confident leader, and an endless desire for adventure. I am now prepared to start my senior year in GLI. I want to use my theme and knowledge to create a program giving students in grade school a taste of different cultures so they can learn what I learned in Australia, even if they don’t have the opportunity to go abroad. My out of the classroom experience was a life changing one, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

This summer, I spent three months living and working in Barcelona, Spain for my Beyond the Classroom experience.  I was an intern at a non-governmental organization that helps women start their own businesses in countries around the Mediterranean.  As an intern, I helped translate documents from Spanish (and sometimes other languages) to English, planned programs related to entrepreneurship for young women, and helped apply for grants from various institutions.  I learned a lot about the day-to-day operations of an NGO and how they interact with governments, businesses, and other organizations

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Spanish and Catalan independence flags in Barcelona

For my global challenge, I was interested in how political systems can address people of varied cultural practices and beliefs.  My time in Barcelona provided me with the perfect opportunity to examine this question. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous community in Spain, which has its own language and many of its own cultural traditions.  The Catalan independence movement has a long history that continues today. While I was in Spain, the former Spanish president was removed and replaced, a new president of Catalonia was approved, and there were several demonstrations throughout Barcelona and Catalonia, both for and against independence.

I lived with a host family for the three months of my internship, which was an important part of my cultural education.  They were Catalan from small towns outside of Barcelona and spoke Catalan with each other. Because I only speak Spanish, or castellano, as they would say, the family had to switch languages when I was around.  Pretty much everyone in Catalonia also speaks Spanish, but I was aware of the different ways people would switch between languages.

As a political science student with this global challenge, I had many chances to have discussions and learn from the people I met.  Many of the Spanish people I interacted with were very interested to hear from an American, both about US politics and what was happening in Catalonia.  I watched Catalan television and attended pro-independence events with my host family and discussed the concerns of the business community and international groups at my internship.  One night, we went to an event where a representative from Finland and a lawyer from Scotland were translated into Catalan as they talked about their own countries’ experiences with independence and their identification with the independence movement.  My internship also provided an interesting way to compare countries, as I prepared reports on the status of policies about women and entrepreneurship in several Mediterranean countries.

Overall, I could not have wished for a better out of the classroom experience from my time in Spain.  My language skills have improved so much from living and working in Spanish, and my Catalan is coming along.  I feel confident and capable, and I can’t wait to return to Barcelona.