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Anna Esquibel '13
Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador?
I first became interested in being an International Ambassador at the end of my time in Barcelona when we were having sessions in school preparing us for returning home and reflecting on our experience. My teacher asked us what we could think of that would help us remember our experience abroad, deal with reverse culture shock and apply everything we learned abroad back at home. The first thing that came to mind was the International Ambassador program. I would love the opportunity to stay in contact with other students who studied abroad, especially the ones in my program. More important than that I loved my experience abroad so much that I am inspired to share my experience with those lucky enough to be going abroad themselves. This includes advising students who are considering going abroad and especially offering advice and helping in whatever way I can those students who have made the excellent decision to study abroad in Barcelona.
Deciding factor for studying abroad?
I always knew I wanted to study abroad in Spain. I’m half Spanish myself and have always had the desire to identify with that part of my identity but never really knew how to because I don’t look Spanish and was not fluent in the language. Calling myself fluent now is a bit of a stretch but my time abroad has improved my language and outlook extremely. I did a lot of research about the different cities that were options for me to study in. At first I was drawn to Granada or Sevilla because it seemed like the typical Spanish city with small beautiful streets and markets. Thinking about what I wanted to accomplish abroad my focused changed to a bigger city like Madrid or Barcelona. I really wanted an experience that would be totally different than my life at home, one that would be exciting and challenging. I believe a big city would be the best place for this. After deciding that I did more research on Barcelona and Madrid and decided on Barcelona. Many factors went into this decision but the main ones were that Barcelona is on the beach (I’m from San Diego and grew up on the beach and love that mentality), and it was more of a metropolitan city with many more European cultures and influences in it than Madrid is which is more government centered. I then talked to my two friends who were currently studying in Barcelona. I asked them about their experiences and they loved what they were doing so much that I was convinced Barcelona was the place for me. I was right.
Defining Moment Abroad?
Trying to pick one defining moment of my experience in Barcelona is almost impossible. I have grown so much as a person and experienced so much of the world now that one instance cannot demonstrate the sum of my experience at all. I traveled all around Spain including islands, two trips to France, England, Ireland, and Italy. Although I have experienced all of these things I can say that it is the little things in Spain where I noticed big differences in myself. One of these is by the end everyday I was looking forward to my 40 minute walk to school because I got to meet knew people everyday, explore new stores, and take a new route that could lead to a different adventure or scenery. Before this I would have dreaded a 40 minute walk and complained endlessly about it. It is a miracle enough that I learned to navigate around the city and could give people directions in Spanish. Another experience is when my metro card suddenly stopped working when everyone else s (who were issued the same card from Santa Clara) were working properly. I had to go into the office at the Metro and ask them in Spanish what the problem was. It turns out that a metro worker had improperly set the end date for the card when mine had ripped and had to be reprinted. Unable to prove when my card was supposed to be good for my only option was to plead to the worker the best I could manage in Spanish to give me a new one. It took several trips to my school and back to the Metro office with representatives from my school to get me a new card. If that happened in the beginning of my trip I wouldn’t have even been able to voice my complaint and would have given up immediately and just bought a new one instead of fighting for what I knew was mine and saving me 60 Euros.
Advice to Prospective study abroad students?
The most important advice I can give to perspective study abroad students is to take this incredible life changing experience you have and study abroad. The most important thing is to get yourself there. After that I would advise students to really research what city they are thinking about going to. Some people think that Spain is like a bigger Mexico, and if you thought that before getting to Barcelona you would be in for a big surprise and completely overwhelmed and possibly disappointed. Students can research on the Internet but the most valuable thing for me was talking to people who had been there. For people going to Barcelona I have an unlimited amount of advices and recommendations; everything from sites to see, resultants to go to, things to pack, tips for living with a host family and much more. I cannot stress enough how much I loved my time abroad and miss it and want more than anything to share this with other people.