Alumni Spotlight: Joey Castagnaro


Joey is currently a junior at Florida State University studying Management Information Systems. He is from Melbourne, Florida and just turned 21 years old. His study abroad experience lasted from January 8th until May 5th. He studied in Valencia, Spain through FSU and visited France, Greece, Morocco, Portugal, Ireland, England, and Denmark during his four months abroad.

If you could do-over one thing, what would it be?

The one thing I regret most is that I did not keep a journal. There are so many little things that happened during my time abroad that I will probably not remember unless I read them back from a journal. I also think, looking back, that it would have been important to reflect on the events and places that I experienced.

Keeping a journal would have given me time to really take in everything that I was doing. After you study abroad you will look back and realize that you’ve never done so much in the short amount of time that you were away. I definitely recommend that any student studying abroad keep some sort of journal, whether it be in a notebook, on your phone, or through an online blog.

Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.

I had the chance to spend some time in Morocco, specifically Marrakesh and the Zagora Desert. The food that I had in Morocco was phenomenal. The chicken tagine was out of this world. I had it for almost every meal while I was in Morocco. We spent some time in Marrakesh, but we spent most of our time traveling to and staying in the Zagora Desert.

We rode camels an hour and a half into the desert, slept in traditional Berber tents, and had a delicious dinner (chicken tagine, of course). The post-dinner treat was a cup of mint tea. The chicken tagine and the mint tea are a must-try while traveling in Morocco.

Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?

I certainly feel like I was able to see the city from the local’s perspective. During my time in Valencia I volunteered teaching English in two different schools. One school was nine and ten-year-old children, and the other was fifteen and sixteen-year-old students.

Though the older students were still three or four years younger than me at the time, we spent a lot of time together outside of the classroom. We were able to communicate with each other, some in Spanish and some in English, about differences between growing up in the US versus Spain. It is really interesting to be able to know how growing up in a different place can change your perspective on worldwide issues.

How has this experience impacted your future?

I don’t want this to sound too cliché, but studying abroad changed my life forever. You will never experience anything like it anytime else. That’s just on the personal side. There are ways that it will change your professional life as well. I recently went to my school’s career fair.

The first thing every single recruiter who saw my résumé said was “Oh, you went to Valencia? How was that?” They did not first comment on my GPA, my work experience, or my skills, they noticed “FSU International Programs, Valencia, Spain,” first. This was not just one or two recruiters. This was every single one. I think there is something to be said there.

It set me apart because they know that through living and traveling in different countries throughout Europe and North Africa, I gained valuable communication and adaptability skills. Academically, most of my studies abroad were business related so I was able to see first hand how international business is executed. We visited global companies that are headquartered in Valencia and were able to speak with CEOs about their company.