BU Madrid Alumni Stories
My year in Madrid undoubtedly shaped my professional and personal life. Studying the liberal arts, I often felt envious of my peers developing “hard skills” during the course of their education. After living in Spain for 10 months, I emerged with a marketable, tangible skill: Spanish fluency. I completely attribute my abilities to living with a host family. After graduating, I moved to Costa Rica to teach English for a year and arriving fluent allowed me to connect with members of the community in a meaningful way than if I only had a basic understanding of the language. Personally, living in another country during college allowed me to become a more patient and understanding person, simply by experiencing another way of life. Of course, I made many great friends during the experience as well; it’s hard not to bond with a group of people when you are sharing so many new experiences at the same time.
My BU abroad experience provided me with so many opportunities that I never would have experienced if I had stayed in Boston. For the Madrid Science Program, my classes were held at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, a Spanish University where several Spanish students attended classes with us. The other students on the program and I got to know the Spanish students and we all became very close. We would all go out on the weekends and our Spanish friends would bring us to restaurants, bars, and plazas in the city that we never would have found as Americans. By taking classes at a Spanish university, I was able to form amazing friendships, integrate myself into the culture, and truly achieve the Madrid experience.
For the Madrid Internship Program, I was placed into an internship at a local hospital in Madrid where I was able to shadow doctors in pediatrics, obstetrics, pharmacy, and urgent care. I applied local anesthetics onto patients, listened to breathing and heart rhythms with stethoscopes, practiced orthoscopic surgery on a manikin, attended surgeries, and observed births and C-sections—all in Spanish. This eight-week experience was something I never could have done in the United States, and I was only able to do it by going abroad on the Madrid Internship Program.
I chose to do an internship in a hospital because I was deciding whether or not I wanted to become a doctor one day. I knew that if I had experience in a clinical environment shadowing doctors, I would most definitely have a better idea of my decision outcome regarding my future career. This internship solidified my decision and made me certain that I wanted to take on the medical path.
Studying abroad in Madrid has changed my life without a doubt. I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone abroad. Adopting the Spanish culture truly opened my eyes to the world and broadened my understanding of life. Before breaking free from my customs as a typical American, I was unaware of the unlimited boundaries that other cultures collectively offer. I used to be trapped within a face-paced society where interpersonal relationships tend to be more conditioned and superficial, where people are distrustful of each other, where stress predominates and relaxation is minimal, where everything revolves around competition. I had a new outlook on life after returning from Madrid. The Spaniards I had befriended opened my eyes to a new culture where people cherish friendships and seek them rather than mock or judge others. I returned with warmth and an appreciation for others. Although I am aware that American society is powered by competition, I do not let this discourage me; I now view everyone as unique individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses. Surpassing everyone else is not what matters; being who you are and cherishing your own strengths and uniqueness is what matters.
I’d love to share how studying abroad changed my life/career. During my time abroad, I became extremely close with my host family. In fact, the summer that I got home, my entire host family came to stay with my family in New Jersey for two weeks. So, my time abroad allowed me to form a relationship that I will have for life. I got to meet and grew to love some amazing Spaniards, and this year they actually moved to my county in New Jersey so that my host brother can finish high school in America. My time abroad allowed my Spanish family to become a part of my American family.
As far as my career, my time in Madrid made me fall in love with Spain, and now I am currently an English teacher in Murcia! Because of the friendship I formed with Heather York from BU study abroad, I learned about the Auxiliares de Conversación program and moved to Murcia to teach in the fall of 2014. I have reapplied for the program to teach in Galicia next year, and plan to apply to graduate school to get my Masters in Education because of the amazing experience I have had here.
One example of how it helped directly was with improvement in my language skills. I am now at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and I was able to obtain a PLIIP grant here to work abroad in Quito, Ecuador this past summer where I worked as a legal intern in one of Ecuador’s most prominent law firms. There, I worked exclusively in Spanish and stayed with a host family, similar to my experience in Madrid. I am positive I would not have been able to get this job without my experience in Madrid.
I met my roommate and one of my best friends in Madrid. We had gone to BU together for two years and didn’t know we existed until we met up to go out for a night of fun in Madrid, now I couldn’t picture a day without her. I still keep in touch with my host mother, whenever I read something about Madrid or Spain in general and I send her a quick “What’s App,” message to see how she is doing. She invites me to come visit her all the time. I feel like studying in Madrid gave me a chance not only to explore the Spanish language, which was my main reason for going, but also to immerse myself in this incredible culture and mostly importantly learn to how to make Tortilla Espanola.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a full two years since I was living with three little Spanish boys, hopping on the Metro and Cercanias, and tapas-ing my semester away! Before studying in Madrid through the engineering program, I knew minimal Spanish and left at a reasonable proficiency, achieving my main goal. To date, I have never switched my phone back to English and continue to learn and practice my Spanish as often as I can. It certainly made the difference when I recently traveled to Honduras for a community service trip and I was able to bond with the family much more easily having broken that initial language barrier while abroad! I also believe that having studied abroad I developed a sense of independence that many have yet to experience…there’s something about speaking another language, managing public transportation and flights, and striking up conversation with strangers that encourages you to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to you. Enjoy every moment of your time in Madrid–it will go by more quickly than expected!
Words cannot express how much I enjoyed my time in Madrid. In fact, I think about the experience almost everyday. I am dying to go back. I have even considered (and am still considering) teaching English in Spain because I had such a positive experience.
It was in Madrid where I met my second family, my host family, who treated me as their own kid from day one. It was in Madrid where I truly discovered a part of myself I never had unleashed before – my love for travel, my innate wanderlust that keeps me yearning for new places and new cultures. I was absolutely spellbound. I could not have asked for a better 4 months in that beautiful nation. I ended up staying an extra week with my host family, though the majority of my friends had gone back to America, and I spent those days doing extra little day trips and just basking in the sun in El Retiro. Soaking it all in before I had to return home.
My one regret is that I didn’t keep in touch with program members and staff as much as I should have in the past 3 years. So I was thrilled to learn about the Alumni Facebook group!
Learning to navigate the city of Madrid was a novel and invigorating experience that made me feel like a true madrileño by the end of the program. Through the internship program I was able to interact with spaniards on a daily basis at home, in the office, and in the classroom, giving me a holistic understanding of all facets of Spanish life. As a result of these experiences my Spanish improved immensely and it opened a number of doors for me as I decided the different careers to pursue post-college. After I graduate I will be working in the Latin American group at an investment bank, utilizing Spanish on a daily basis. I will definitely be back to visit Madrid!