Alumni Spotlight: Amanda StClair


Amanda is a rising senior at Ithaca College in upstate New York. At school, she is studying Marketing, Advertising, Design, and Sociology. She hopes to work on the creative side of the Advertising industry after graduating and travel the world. Her next travels will take place in Southeast Asia, where she hopes to visit Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose CISabroad's Barcelona Semester because it was the most cost-effective, and I knew I would get more value for what I was paying for. I was originally interested in going to Spain since I had an ache to -really- learn Spanish and I have a few family members in the south, and once I began to look into costs I found that a semester in Barcelona was the cheapest option. As I learned more about BCN I realized it would also be the most fun option! The city is so alive and there is so much to do! So between the cost and the potential fun to be had in Barcelona, I decided it was the perfect place for me.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The program planned multiple dinner get-togethers and program excursions. They planned trips to Sevilla, Zaragoza, Morocco and many more! We even took day trips to places like the Dali Museum! The also brought us to some of the nicest restaurants in Barcelona and paid for us to try all of the typical Catalan cuisines.

I planned all of my own trips that I wanted to take outside of Spain (other than the Morocco exchange) and I planned all of my own typical day trips and night adventures. The program helped with every step of the process for getting to Spain and even recommended a travel agency to book the flights. CIS made it very easy to get there and get adjusted. They also set up my housing arrangement, which was so much easier.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I wish I had known what type of American students Barcelona attracts! A lot of what I found was that people were only in Barcelona to party with other Americans. They didn't want to go to Spanish clubs or meet Spanish people. I found that my semester goals were very different than the goals of others, and I wish someone had been able to warn me about what type of people want to study there.

I also was surprised by how many people knew each other in the program! I wanted to travel solo, and also wanted to jump into a semester in a new city not knowing anyone, so when I arrived at my program orientation I was sad to see how many people already knew each other! That being said, people still wanted to make friends and branch out, but not as much as I had hoped. If you are planning to go alone (which you absolutely should, it was the best decision I made, just make sure you're going to a place that attracts the type of people you want to meet.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Classes are very light in this program, so I only had 2 a day, so 4 total hours of class. My week looked like this: Every day (Monday through Thursday- no Friday classes!!) I had class 9-11, and then a break and then 11:30-1:30. So I was done with school by 1:30 and had the whole rest of the day to explore Barcelona! I usually took this time to grab a subway going in a direction I had never been and would wander around that part until I felt like going home!

Sometimes I would meet up with other people in my program and we'd explore together, but sometimes you find the best places by yourself! This is how I found the Gracia neighborhood, and that ended up being my favorite spot in the city.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was going abroad alone and feeling LONELY! Since I was traveling alone I was really worried I wouldn't meet anyone I liked and would spend the whole semester alone and talking to my friends at home too much and feeling sad for myself. I overcame this by actually being alone!! I realized that exploring a new city alone is the best way to learn because you can always do exactly what YOU want to do! You don't have to worry about anyone except yourself!! And when you're having amazing experiences and seeing cool unique Gaudi architecture and accidentally stumbling into a parade on the street, you'll realize there is no one better to share the experience with than yourself!

Going abroad should be about doing what you want and learning about yourself and what you're capable of!

What city would you recommend people to go to, and where should they stay?

If you get a chance, (which you absolutely will) GO TO PRAGUE!!!!! This is the best city maybe in the world, and if you need a hostel to stay at, stay at Hostel One Home!!! Prague is the best city in the world and that hostel showed me all the best bars, sights and fun places to be! Prague is such a unique city that feels so beautifully Eastern European. It was one of the most unique cities I visited and I met the best group of people there.

I traveled alone after my semester for 1.5 months and never met as many great people as I did in Prague. I found that the city has SO MUCH character and also the best gelato at this place called gelato! I cannot express how much I loved this city and how much fun it was! If you can go to any place in Europe, it should be in this city!