Alumni Spotlight: Lauren Giese

Lauren is currently a senior studying Business Administration with a Marketing concentration at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, WA. She studied abroad in the summer following her junior year.

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Why did you choose this program?

I chose Barcelona SAE for a few reasons. The first is that I have always wanted to study abroad in Spain, particularly Barcelona. From all the pictures, videos, and stories of the city, it was definitely on my bucket list to go there.

I decided on this program specifically for the variety of courses they offered and for all of the weekend and day trips included in the cost of the program. They were awesome about connecting me to other students and arranging fun activities outside of classes.

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

I was very impressed with all of the activities and educational opportunities included in my program. From the moment I arrived at the airport I was greeted by the friendly staff and was provided with transportation to my homestay. My homestay mom was absolutely amazing and was so generous with her home--not to mention she was a great cook (which is always an added bonus).

I took the city metro to and from class each day, which was very easy for me since my home was only a five-minute walk from the nearest metro station. Every weekend there was something fun to do. On the first weekend, the program arranged a day trip to Callella, with food, transportation, and a guide provided. We took a beautiful hike and then took a dip in the ocean at the end. They also arranged a cultural orientation in the first week for us to learn more about Spain and what to expect in our time there.

By the end of the first week, I had already made a bunch of new friends and we started planning a getaway to other parts of Spain. The following weekend we went to Seville and Granada and had an amazing time getting to know more about the country and each other.

On our last weekend in Barcelona, the program arranged a trip to Tarragona. The hotel was very nice and completely included in the cost of the program, along with transportation and several meals. We had the freedom to explore the city and go wherever we wanted while there. I remember the final weekend as being so bittersweet--an awesome time in another beautiful part of Spain, but sad knowing that it was our last weekend together.

Overall, the program really took care of its students. I felt that there were always opportunities for me to have fun, learn, and grow.

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

As cliché as it may sound, keep an open mind--the entire time.

Going to Barcelona, I had heard this before and knew I would do it, but there are times when you will be tested. When something doesn't go quite as planned, or you can't communicate with your family because they don't understand you, or a handful of other circumstances come across, it's all about your perspective. Think about your goals and what you want to get out of your experience--keep this in mind the entire time--and consciously make decisions in alignment with your goals so that by the time you pack up your bags to go home, you can feel good about what you put into your study abroad experience.

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

The great thing about study abroad is that no day is ever exactly the same. But for some people, this lack of familiarity can be hard--I know it was for me at times.

Every day after class I would explore a new café with a new friend. Or go to the Tibidabo amusement park and get a view of the entire city. Weekends were always long and a great opportunity to travel or get to know the city like a local.

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

Probably my biggest fear going into study abroad was the fact that I went all by myself.

It was my first time going overseas, so I would have no one to rely on but myself (so I thought). Although this was true, I made so many new friends and developed such a strong bond with my host mom and others that I met while there. Had I gone with people I knew, I wouldn't have pushed myself to be so outgoing, brave, and independent.

Study abroad really taught me the value of being open to new experiences and new people.

In what ways do you remember your study abroad experience, so as not to forget it?

The great thing about study abroad is that, because it was so immersive, it really changed my perspective and sense of confidence in myself and my abilities. This is something I will always carry with me, no matter where I go.

I also do my best to keep in contact with the people I met there. I have all my friends on Snapchat and Whatsapp, and we try to keep our group chats going with updates on ourselves and everyday lives. I also keep in touch with my host mom--we send pictures to each other back and forth. Google Translate has also been my friend, haha.

I try to keep pictures of my study abroad experience around my apartment and on my phone. They are constant reminders to me of my friends across the world and summer that I'll never forget.