Alumni Spotlight: Shannon Parness


Shannon studies at UNCW and is planning to graduate with a biology and Spanish degree in May 2022. She chose to study abroad while at college because she loves to travel and see the world. Her dream is to become a surgeon, hoping to go to medical school after graduating in 2022.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose CIEE because it had a program completely in Spanish and I wanted to be fully immersed in the Spanish culture. Also, they were one of the only programs that would let me take a science course while in Spain. CIEE was also very helpful in showing past reviews of their program and it had amazing reviews so I knew that it would be the right fit.

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

My program provider assisted me with familiarizing myself with the Spanish culture and what to expect while I was there. They also went through multiple safety procedures with us so that we knew what our resources would be while there.

I had to get my student visa alone, although that is not the case for everyone, but UNCW and CIEE gave me a full outline of everything I needed to do within a certain time period.

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

Do not waste your time doing nothing or doing the same things over and over again. My favorite part about Barcelona was that there was a new place I could go to every day. For me, that mainly means restaurants and cafes, but there are so many parks and different city attractions that were so fun to see.

Also, travel as much as you can if you want to! Try to plan those trips in advance so that it is less expensive, but I had the greatest trips while in Spain and I wish I would have traveled more.

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

Most programs have Fridays off, which is really nice. The class hours in Spain are very different - be ready to have some classes late at night (7-9 was my latest class).

Most of my friends and I took 5 classes, although I know a few who took 4. For me, an average day was class in the morning, a cafe or new restaurant for lunch, class in the evening, and then I would go back to my home-stay for dinner.

I was mainly traveling over the weekends; there's a lot of fun program trips to participate in as well!

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 the language aspect.

I have been studying Spanish for about 6 years or so now, but I still always have my doubts about my capabilities because I don't use it that much while I am home. I overcame that fear by just being confident when I spoke, and when I didn't know a word, I would just ask. The people there are always willing to help and actually enjoy sometimes to practice their English. All in all, they will appreciate the effort if you try to speak in Spanish first, then end up switching to English.

How did you plan your trips and how did you decide where you wanted to go?

Before I even got to Spain, I had places all throughout Europe that I had to go to no matter what.

When I got to Spain, I found out that many people wanted to go to the same places, or they wanted to go to places I hadn't even thought of before. It was so much fun planning trips with new friends, and I got to go to all of my top places while joining friends and going to even more places! I had friends that traveled alone as well and loved it.

In my opinion, if you are dead-set on going to a specific place, tell it to the people in your program. I am sure someone would love to go with you!