Every semester, tons of our Intern Queen Campus Ambassadors take advantage of the amazing opportunity to study abroad. This Spring, we wanted to share their stories with you! The second blog in our #InternQueenAbroad series is from Sarah Dougherty, University Alabama.
What city and school are you studying in?
I'm currently studying in Sevilla, Spain at the University of Sevilla (the exact building that Carmen from the opera "Carmen" worked in!)
Why did you choose to study abroad there?
I knew I wanted a very culturally rich yet extranjero (international student)-friendly atmosphere in a big-ish city. A lot of people I knew had studied in Sevilla and had the best time, and my program (Academic Programs International) had everything I was looking for.
Have you had to deal with language barriers? What have you done to make it easier?
Yes and no. I am a Spanish student, but the dialect here is very different from anything I've heard before. If I don't understand what someone is saying, I find that asking politely for them to repeat it or speak a little slower makes a big difference. When I traveled to Portugal, however, the only thing I knew in Portuguese was "thank you"- luckily many people there knew English or had pictures we could reference. Just staying polite and patient is key.
Is the classroom environment different from the United States? How so?
A little bit. Whereas in the US professors distribute Syllabi with exact assignments, dates and things to expect, Spanish professors just tell you when your exams are and throw projects and other assignments in randomly, sometimes even in the middle of discussing something entirely different (all 4 of my professors have done this!) It's very important to pay attention, especially if the class is in a different language. Otherwise, the classroom feels the same. Some professors have involved discussions and others lecture.
How did you budget for your semester and manage your money abroad?
Being 100% honest, I didn't budget enough ahead of time to be able to spend freely without thinking. Luckily my program included housing, 3 homemade meals a day, laundry, tuition and a dozen weekend excursions. I manage my money using excel, where I keep a specific log of what I purchased and how much it all costs, and I color-code what was my spending money versus my parents (aka did I buy Sangria or did I buy shampoo). It's important to convert Euros to Dollars to have an exact amount recorded. Using cash is the best way to know how much you've spent over a week.
How are you balancing school and exploring your country?
Sometimes I use my siesta time to get ahead on homework before weekend trips, but otherwise I am very good about doing homework the night it is assigned so it doesn't get ahead of me. I also decided to take only 4 classes here and 1 over the summer when I get home to make the course load more time-friendly. As long as an hour of homework time is in the routine you establish, it won't be extremely difficult to manage.
What are the 5 things you HAD to pack to bring with you?
• My raincoat
• Converse (the best for long walking days but not having to sacrifice fashion)
• A travel journal
• Burt's Bees chapstick,
• A stash of granola bars!
What has been your favorite place/activity so far?
My program did a bike tour of Sevilla on our first full day in town- it was the most fun way to see all of the different neighborhoods and areas around the river in a short amount of time! My favorite place to visit so far has been Sintra, Portugal - the palaces and castles were beautiful!
What advice would you give other students considering study abroad?
If you have any interest at all in going, GO! You don't know if you'll ever have the chance to live in another place for 5 months to really just explore and study again. I've learned so much about the world and myself in the month I've been here, and know that it will benefit me for the long-term. If you need more convincing, read all of the amazing facts and blogs on the hashtag #StudyAbroadBecause
Any last words/tips/secrets to share?
My Sevilla director told us on our first night here that having an "Open Mind and Open Stomach" would be the only way to fully embrace and enjoy Spain; that's 100% true! And one little fact that shocked me and may shock you: Only 10% of American students study abroad. Imagine how many people are missing out and how much a semester abroad can make you stand out in internship & job interviews!
Interested in studying abroad? Read more about our campus ambassador’s adventures in our new study abroad series. Check out our recent blog post: