Alumni Spotlight: Karen Cleland

Why did you decide to study abroad with ISEP in Spain?

Karen: I decided to study abroad with ISEP because their program was an exchange; the benefit of this program is that instead of directly paying a foreign university, you just pay the tuition and fees at your home university and exchange places with another student. This is a great fit if you have a scholarship, so that you don't have to pay out-of-pocket to study abroad. The downside of this program is that there are fewer locations to choose from since you can only go to a university that participates in this program.

I initially wanted to study abroad in Barcelona, but my choices for Spain were either Madrid or Malaga. I chose Malaga because I wanted to be as isolated from the English language as possible in order to gain fluency in Spanish. I also considered geographic conditions when making this choice. I really wanted to be near the ocean. Being a seaport, Malaga was a natural choice.

Karen Cleland studies with friends in Spain

What made your study abroad experience unique and special?

Karen: I actually think that most study abroad experiences are similar in that we all undergo initial homesickness, culture shock, and eventual nostalgia for a place we have temporarily called home. That said, Malaga is special for several reasons. It lies at a cultural and religious crossroads for Christian and Arabic civilizations. The result of centuries of historic mingling is ever present today, from the food to the music to the architecture. Malaga is also the birthplace and childhood home of artist Pablo Picasso.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Karen: To this day, I still carry with me the lessons learned from this experience. Professionally speaking, studying abroad in Spain made me a better problem solver. Studying abroad forces you to think on your feet and come up with creative solutions on the spot. Employers recognize this transferable quality.

Personally, studying abroad in Spain has made me a much more balanced person. American culture tends towards overwork and the puritanical ideal of self-deprivation. Spanish culture, on the other hand, values the siesta and the joy of living. I truly believe that my quality of life is better today because of my time in Spain.