Alumni Spotlight: Gabriella Swartz

Gabby is a senior at Valparaiso University majoring in Spanish and Secondary Education.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose CISAbroad because it was recommended to me at my Study Abroad office on my campus. I decided to do a program outside of my university because I knew I wanted to go to Spain and my university didn't have an option to Spain, so I went through CISAbroad instead.

After applying for the program, I had no help from my university office, but the CISAbroad staff were so helpful and supportive, I'm so glad we were able to go through CIS.

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

The only things I needed to organize were my flight to Spain and my transportation to the airport to leave and my flight home. When I arrived, there was a driver waiting to take me to my homestay. CISAbroad organized my homestay and university enrollment.

Once I arrived, I was more in control. I did change my classes and decided what included excursions I wanted to go, but nothing was required.

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

The biggest thing for me is that they do NOT split checks. If you ask your server nicely, they may try and accommodate you, but typically they do not split checks. It is a cultural thing for them. I know it's small, but that is the one thing that shocked me the most and caused the most shock because you are going to be mostly eating with others if you go out to eat.

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

In the summer program, a typical week included daily class which depends on your schedule. For me, I had class from 8:30-1:15 Monday-Thursday and on Friday classes were from 8:30-11:15 for everyone. After class, you were free to do as you wish! The university I attended offered excursions and visits to the big museums and sites in Madrid that were free for students, those were typically on Wednesdays.

On the weekends, you were free to do as you wished. The program I was in included 2 of the weekend excursion trips to other cities in Spain outside of Madrid on Saturdays. These trips were day trips leaving around 8:30 AM and returning about 5/6 PM.

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 alone. Since I went through a non-university program, I did not know anyone else going to Madrid. I wouldn't say there's a way to get over going alone other than just having faith in yourself and being confident. You will meet people and you will make friends!

My view on going abroad alone now is DO IT! It is so much fun and you learn so much about yourself that you may not have learned if you weren't put in that situation.

What is your favorite memory of this trip?

My favorite memory abroad was my last weekend in Madrid. I decided to stay in Madrid and not travel because there were still things I hadn't done that I wanted to in the city. That weekend, I went to the amusement park in Madrid (Parque de Atracciones) with some friends. We had a blast!

The next day, I went to the Madrid Zoo by myself for the day. Going alone was awesome! I could take my time looking at all the animals and seeing all of the shows offered. It was great last weekend!