Alumni Spotlight: Cypress Walker


Cypress is from Charlottesville, Virginia and graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and English from the University of Virginia in 2012. In Spring 2011, her life was changed by the IES Granada program where the Sierra Mountains, Moorish monuments, fantastic flamenco, unforgettable friendships, and healthy lifestyle took root in her heart. Cypress enjoys feeling connected, trying new things, pursuing holistic wellness, promoting happiness, loving others, and living as fully as possible.

Why did you decide to study abroad with IES?

Cypress: I decided to study abroad with IES for several reasons: they offered a program in Granada (the city I was most excited to study abroad in), the price was feasible, the program was a robust but not overwhelming size (about 110 students), they had an exchange with my home university that made it easy to transfer in credits, and all of my interactions with IES personnel and alumni were positive and inspiring.

Also, IES seemed like a well-established institution with a good balance of academic rigor, familial friendliness, and panoramic perspective on what constitutes a rich experience abroad. I could not be happier with my choice. IES Abroad (especially the Granada program) could not have been more organized, caring, and effective in its operations. The staff is deeply committed to the health, happiness, and growth of its students, and it shines through in the stellar attitudes and the high-quality work that the personnel do.

What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

Cypress: With the right attitude, any experience can be unique and special. This perspective in conjunction with unique and special circumstances (which I absolutely consider my study abroad experience with IES Granada to be) is the perfect storm for a life-altering and self-evolving experience. It was an amazing situation to be in a vibrant yet intimate city steeped in a rich, variegated past and resounding with a vital present. It was more incredible still to get to know this city and its people with IES Abroad as a guide. What really made these harmonious elements sing though was how ineffably awesome the people were: the IES staff, my host mom, the IES students, and the granadinos. If you liberate your expectations of what you think an experience should be and open yourself to what your individual experience actually is, you will be in the best position to enjoy and prosper.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Cypress: The full extent to which studying in Granada has impacted my future will be unfurling for the rest of my life. The effects of studying abroad have pervaded every part of my life and self. I would say that the most far-reaching consequence of spending four months in Granada is that I am more receptive to life. I am more aware of what I can and can’t control, and am learning to perceive and embrace the unexpected as a potential gift rather than a threat to my life plan. If you weave unforeseen circumstances into a broad life outline rather than futilely struggling to quash surprises that you think derail you, you will allow life’s current to assist rather than resist you. I am also getting better at putting things in perspective. The little things are more important than I formerly thought, and the big things aren’t benefited by my anxious anguish. So I try to direct what I can, collaborate with what I can’t, and invest myself not only in major milestones but also in minor-seeming moments that added up compose your life. I can truly say that my time in Granada continues to help me become the person that I am and aspire to be.