Alumni Spotlight: Robin Granberry


Robin is going into her senior year at Rice University studying Cognitive Science and Neuroscience. While she loves the sciences, her true passion is for language and traveling to experience new cultures.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose IES Madrid because it was the only program I found that really offered me all of the different things I was looking for in Study Abroad. It gave me opportunities to take classes both within the program as well as at the local university; it had various different housing options to fit how I was looking to live abroad, and it allowed me to live in a big metropolitan city that would be a good base for traveling around the country and Europe. Most of all though, the program came highly recommended from my university, with many positive reviews from the students who had previously gone, which made me feel much more comfortable with agreeing to go halfway across the world.

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

Thankfully, I had a lot of help from both the program provider and my university. Rice helped me look for and choose a program, advising me on what classes I would need to take abroad and how to get credit for them once I returned. IES helped me with preparing to go abroad, giving me documents and testimonials from past students about what to pack and what to expect from living in Spain.

Most importantly, IES helped with the most stressful parts of preparing to study abroad, like attaining a visa and what things would or would not be available in Spain (like certain medications or health care products). These were things that would have been incredibly hard or stressful to deal with on my own, and having someone who knows what they're doing lead me through the process was extraordinarily helpful.

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

One piece of advice that I'd give to someone considering going abroad would be to make sure that you find a balance once you're abroad. Most people want to try to do everything that they possibly can once they're in Europe – using every weekend to travel, going out every night, seeing every single museum in the city. While I agree that this is an important part of studying abroad, and you definitely do want to take advantage of your time living in a new country, it's important to remember to find time to slow down too.

One of my friends from my program, for instance, had never been to Europe before, and so she decided that she wanted to try to go to as many countries as possible during her semester. But when we reached the end of the program, she realized that she'd only spent one weekend actually in Madrid.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't travel or explore.

It's important to notice the little things, to take time to appreciate sitting in a park under a tree, or to take a day to just relax at a local cafe.

Some of my favorite memories are when my friends and I decided to take a relaxing day doing nothing but hanging out and getting food. This is possibly the one chance you'll have to actually live like a local in a city abroad, so make sure that you enjoy the city where you are.

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

An average week for me at IES Madrid was very busy, although that could be because I overloaded myself with classes, trying to do as much as I could. Since I wanted to experience the local university and was also interested in some of the classes that the IES program offered, I was constantly running between different buildings, campuses, and parts of the city trying to make all of my different classes. I would say that on a typical weekday, I spent almost two or three hours commuting between each different place. However, because the Madrid metro system is so clean and efficient, the commute wasn't too bad, and I found that bringing a book along made that time enjoyable.

Once classes were over, I would typically either go home to cook dinner or I would go out with friends to cafes and bars around the city. Especially on the weekend, I would spend a lot of time out in the city, exploring neighborhoods. I made it a goal to try to find a new place to study every weekend, hitting all of the different areas of Madrid. On weekend nights, it was common for most people to go out to clubs, but my group preferred to spend time bar hopping or hanging out in one of our houses. Either way, the days and nights were always packed full. It was important to sometimes take a day to myself and just do nothing and relax, to recharge for the next adventure.

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 definitely going so far away. Up until then, I'd lived and gone to college in the same city, and my dorm room was only a 10-minute drive from my home. I’ve never had to try living without my parents a short walk away, or being in a city that I didn't intimately know. The thought of leaving all of that comfort, leaving all of the friends I'd made at college, to travel to a different continent, was terrifying.

The truth is, it wasn't easy. The first few weeks were extremely difficult – I didn't know anyone; I didn't know where anything was; I couldn't even speak the language fluently. Plus, communicating with people back home was hard because my morning was their night and vice versa.

Slowly, however, with time and patience, I made Madrid my new home. I made new friends; I learned the route to school; I explored and found new places to love. It was a terrifying, hard transition, but I never gave up. Every day I got out of bed, went to class, pushed myself to meet new people and do new things, and eventually I didn't have to push myself anymore. Eventually, it felt natural to me. Now that I'm back home, I don't have to wonder anymore if I can live independently in a new place – I can confidently say that I can do it, and I can do it well!