What made this study abroad experience unique and special?
Kirby: This study abroad experience was unique in that it gave me the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the Spanish language and culture. I had the opportunity to live with a host family and teach them English for about twenty hours a week. The family that I lived with was so sweet and taught me so much about what it is like to live in Barcelona.
Another unique part of the Cultural Embrace program was that it gave me the freedom to travel on the weekends and during the days. The children that I had the opportunity to teach English to attended school from 8-5pm on Monday-Friday which gave me the freedom to explore Barcelona during the day and travel on the weekends. As a result of my flexible schedule, I was able to travel to the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, and Andorra as well as many cities in Spain.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Kirby: This experience has impacted my future in ways that I never imagined possible. Personally, this experience has made me see the world in a whole new light. This was my second time to travel abroad, so I did not experience culture shock as badly as some of the people I met in Barcelona. This experience helped me to understand how people from unfamiliar parts of the world live. It also made me very flexible with handling different situations that may arise. For example, my Spanish was not that great when I went to Spain so it often made it difficult to communicate with my host family and locals that I came into contact with, so I had to be creative and flexible in communicating with them.
Academically, this experience made me realize the value of education and the importance of learning and understanding other people’s cultures and languages. My time abroad was what helped me to decide to pursue my MBA. My time spent in Barcelona was one of the greatest experiences of my life and it has showed me that living abroad is something that I hope to do one day!
What was your favorite must-have food abroad?
Kirby: Croquetas. These are life changing! Croquetas are small, lightly fried rolls with all types of fillings in them. My favorite type of croquetas were potato. Other common types of croquetas are ham, potato, and fish. They are generally served as Tapas (appetizers) and can be found in about every restaurant in Spain!
Tell us about any interesting cultural tidbits you noticed about your country.
Kirby: One of the most interesting cultural tidbits that I noticed during my time in Spain was their eating schedule. A typical day in Spain includes breakfast around 9, lunch around 2pm, and dinner at 9 or 10pm. The family that I stayed with had 5 children all under the age of 10 and they followed this schedule every day. I was shocked my first night in Barcelona that the children were up till well after midnight because they ate dinner so late.
If you could do-over one thing, what would it be?
Kirby: If I could do-over one thing I would have stayed longer in Barcelona. The six weeks that I was there flew by in an instant and I was definitely not ready to leave Spain at the end of my time. Since going to Barcelona I have made plans to travel abroad to China and study abroad for a year in Mexico. This experience changed the way I viewed the world and it gave me a passion for exploring and learning about different cultures.