Why did you decide to study abroad with IES?
Andrea: The reason I decided to study abroad with IES is because the program was a fully-immersive experience and offered everything that I would ever need from a study abroad program. All of the aspects of the program (living situation, academic help, activities, etc.) were coordinated and easy to accommodate. IES also offers the program to students nationwide, so I loved the idea that I would be studying abroad with not only with students from Michigan, but also students from across the United States. I think it really enhanced my experience that I got to meet so many other people from other universities. IES also did a wonderful job in planning activities and field trips that would teach us about the history and culture of Madrid and all of Spain.
Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?
Andrea: I definitely do feel like I lived a local’s life while I was in Madrid because IES made sure that we were fully immersed into the experience and culture, and tried as much as possible to give us insights of what it is to live in Madrid. Because I lived in the dorms, I interacted with Spanish university students a lot, and it made me feel like I was just another college student attending the local university in the way that they were. Of course, there were some differences in the culture from the people I interacted with, but I came to appreciate the laid-back living style of the Spanish.
What made this study abroad experience unique and special?
Andrea: There were a number of things that made my study abroad experience unforgettable but I would definitely say that two things top my list: all of the different people I met, from fellow IES students to Spanish locals to locals in other places I traveled to and the ability to see a little bit of the world by being in such a centered location.
First, all of the people I met really taught me about all of the different perspectives of this world, and it opened my eyes to how much I can learn from people of different cultures and backgrounds. In addition, because I lived in Madrid, it gave me the opportunity to travel across Europe to places that I never even dreamed of visiting. It was amazing to travel and see all of the different sights and even to walk on the small and hidden streets of each city to get a sense of what is out there besides what I know in the United States.
What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?
Andrea: I honestly cannot choose between three specific cities that I traveled to outside of Madrid: Bruges, Belgium; Florence, Italy; and Lisbon, Portugal. Those cities are so different and so unique from everywhere I traveled that it makes it hard for me to pick between the three. Bruges was a quaint and small city that had a medieval kind of atmosphere; Florence was beautiful and everything I expected Italy to be; and Lisbon was breath-taking and had some of the nicest locals I ever met while traveling. Not to mention I had some of the best food in those three places!