Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here
CIEE

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

8 posts from February 2014

02/25/2014

Where do I begin?

This post is by JaLisa Hoekstra, a Spanish First Major  and Management and Management Second Major at Hope College. During the Spring 2014 semester she is participating in the CIEE Business and Society Program.

Amigos

¡Algunos de mis amigos!

Well, I have officially started my semester classes, and so far they are going great! I am taking two economics courses, and one is basically a movie class. We watch at least one movie a week... on Wednesday we are watching Invictus, and last week we watched a film about Bruce Springsteen. Yep, that happened. My other economics class has a really chill professor, and we haven't had much homework yet. The classes here are a lot more relaxed than at Hope, I love it. Along with the economics courses, I am taking a literature class (it's just alright) and a photography class! The photography class is really quite interesting. We look at photos and talk about what statement we believe the photographer was trying to make; and tomorrow we are gallivanting throughout the city to take pictures. I'm definitely not complaining, considering there is a high of 66 degrees Fahrenheit tomorrow! 

PhotoGrid_1393341110074

These are actually homework assignments for photography! We had to recreate the old photos of Sevilla for comparison. 

I am still loving the food in Spain! I feel like I eat pretty healthy here, but it is all so delicious. If you know me, you should know that I don't have a huge sweet tooth, but if I did there are churros, ice cream, and crepes all around the city. But since you walk everywhere, I feel like it would be really hard to gain weight. I never realized how much I drive and how lazy I am, until I got here and realized that a 45 minute walk to Plaza Nueva isn't really that far. Of course, there is a tranvia that I can take if I am in a hurry, my feet hurt, or the weather is crappy, otherwise I don't mind the walk too much. I think back to when Amelia and I used to hang out and she lived in her parent's house. It is literally 3 or 4 blocks away from my house, but as soon as we got our licenses we would drive to each other's houses. So crazy!

Hike

The hike

On February 2, 2014 I, JaLisa Marie, went on a HIKE! Can you believe it? I took a day to walk through hills with a backpack on. Insane, I know. It was through CIEE and it was actually really pretty. The weather cooperated, and I got some really neat pictures out of the experience! We went to Huelva and trekked through nature. I guess you can call me wilderness girl.

 

Beautiful sigh

Such a beautiful sight to see!

I have an intercambio here in Spain who is absolutely amazing. Her name is Marina and she is a Spanish student who is learning English, so I help her with English and she helps me with Spanish. It's a win-win situation. She is so kind-hearted and really easy to get along with. I sure got lucky! She also knows how to flamenco, so I am definitely going to learn that during Feria, I am super excited. 

Marina and I

I would like everyone to meet Marina, my intercambio!

Lastly, I want to tell you guys about my trip to Brussels this past weekend. It is so crazy to me that I can casually say, "yah, I went to Belgium for the weekend and it was a blast." Like, who can say that?! I went with Emily, Rushi, and Brett. At first we were a little apprehensive because it was raining, and the city looked really creepy, but then we went to the Grand Place and that was a much prettier sight! We went on a walking tour, so I took pictures of everything I saw, even the peeing boy statue which is a big tourist attraction in Brussels.

PhotoGrid_1393341540135

Brussels, (Belgium)
 
When you think of Belgium I'm sure one of the first things that comes to mind is Belgian waffles or chocolate. Well, they have waffles and chocolate shops all around the city! There are Godivas on almost every block and the scent of waffles fills the narrow cobblestone roads. Also, fries were invented in Belgium, which is something I didn't know. I had the BEST fries in the world, and I didn't even have to order them without salt! I love how European countries eat their fries with mayonnaise because in the states I always get strange looks when I ask for mayonnaise with my fries. Now I am considered normal! Overall, I ate so unhealthy this weekend and I was really looking forward to the salads my señora makes.
 
PhotoGrid_1393341613968
 
The peeing boy statue and the peeing boy's sister statue!
 
I think that concludes what I have to share!

02/24/2014

Guidelines for future endeavors abroad

This post is by Stephanie Davies, a Business Administration Major at Worcester State University. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

Whenever someone asks me who I am I seem to always answer with “I’m just me” or “I don’t really know” or “That is too complicated to explain” but the last few years I have begun to really feel like I am the person who I have been working hard my whole life to become. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure myself out and much of it I already knew but this trip has solidified my own personal identity.

Clementines

I am a white American Bostonian Jew with a penchant for religion in all forms. I’ve spent much of my life trying to figure out what religion matches my faith and view of God and Judaism is absolutely the closest thing I could find it fits almost perfectly. Philosophically I fall somewhere between conservative Jewish views and strong spiritualist tendencies namely ideas about nature and humanity. I am pretty adamant about human rights, animal rights, and  environmental responsibility being a part of my life. I see the world by the light of many religions and philosophies and I don’t miss a chance to see meaning behind any action. I feel like every breath humanity takes is part of what was intended and that the world is far more connected than any of us care to admit. If something beautiful exists in the world it also exists in you and me and if there is something ugly about the world then there is something ugly about you and me.

This is a huge impetus towards me working towards changing the world around me for the betterment of mankind. I don’t believe in doing anything halfway or easily. Those things said I have a pretty heavy personal schema influenced by the many religions I’ve interacted with, my father’s insistence on diversity being part of my life(him being one of the first white teens to go to black schools as a kid), and very american views on equality. I’ve figured out very recently that I prefer scenarios with low power distance. I also find that I prefer and think as though I’m in a collectivist cultures though I live in an individualistic one which to me is very strange to learn as I am an introvert by nature.

As you can see the experience of this class has been very self actualizing. I have realized that I am very different from the students around me but my viewpoints are not particularly unique in the world as a whole. This was oddly comforting and caused me to place a high value on the total experience.

Group_painting

Apart from these revelations about who I am there are many reasons why I chose to participate in this course. The first was because I have never travelled without a friend or family member before and I wanted to experience emotional solitude. I feel like this was a necessity towards understanding myself and boosting my personal confidence rather than simply having the support of friends and family around me. I needed to know that I could really make it on my own without my family surrounding me even though I prefer them being close. This experience has validated things that I suspected about myself while giving me new questions about who I am and who I will be going forward.

I also entered this class so that when working in human resources in the future I can be as sensitive as I can to the cultures that my employees, employers, and associates deal with.  I wanted to deliberately discover how to go about learning enough of a culture to deal with it’s inhabitants clearly and compassionately. I now have a framework in which to place cultures on a basic level. I have worked out ways to observe behaviors efficiently to find out the best way to interact with people of a certain culture. These guidelines I will use in future endeavors are:

  1. Research the country that you are dealing with or going to extensively using Hofstede’s, Trompenaars’, and Hall’s dimensions to give myself a basic idea of the culture as it is seen in those circumstances.
  2. Make a list of stereotypes I either have or have seen related to the culture and be aware of them.
  3. Learn what stereotypes the culture has about Americans and how to avoid the negative connotations of those stereotypes.
  4. Find a guide/interpreter with enough cultural know how to answer questions, help you get along, and who is native to the area you are going to.
  5. Look at the “tip of the iceberg” then move deeper. Do not be afraid to ask questions if something seems weird or different try asking “Why?” before reacting to it and really try to find answers.
  6. Be aware of “big ticket” circumstances like religion or social boundaries that can be really important to respect and understand.
  7. Be open to having ideas challenged, don’t “go native”, remain objective in all situations, and do whatever is necessary to keep an open dialogue running as it will be your primary source of useful information.

Mediteranean_panorama

As I enter my field this spring I will use these skills pretty regularly. I intend to present my experience here as an “enriching education in maintaining good communication with international cultures” and explain how culture is part of everything and even companies have a rich subculture within their culture. If I get the position I am looking at as a consultant this will be fiercely relevant and if I get the job I really want as an intern I believe it will help me interacting with the company. The ability to market myself as “culturally savvy” will be a useful tool in the process. 

Lemon

No matter how I use this experience I am grateful to have had it and cannot wait to share my experiences with my friends and family. The conversations and experiences I have had on this trip will continue to be a part of who I am and who I intend to be for a very long time. I cannot wait to see what more there is to come.

02/21/2014

la mujer escritora con Magdalena y magdalenas!

La foto

La clase de La Mujer Escritora en el siglo XX visitó esta semana el Convento Madre de Dios (s. XV) para ilustrar la vida de las mujeres que dedican su vida a la contemplación y a los dulces y que además usaban el convento como una vía de escape al machismo durante la dictadura de Franco.

La foto2

Este convento, situado justo al lado del centro de estudios de CIEE fue fundado por la reina Católica en la antigua sinagoga principal de la judería conservando elementos esenciales de la sinagoga y el artesonado realizado por arquitectos musulmanes en 1496. Desde 1496 hasta el presente el convento es de la orden Dominica que corresponde con Providence College Rhode Island de dónde proceden algunas alumnas de la clase!

Después de la visita, la clase pudo probar las exquisitas magdalenas caseras que se fabrican en el convento.

02/17/2014

Thank you CIEE!

This post is by Taryn Glynn, a Marketing Major at University of St. Thomas, MN. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

IMG_4511

While many college students around the world were enjoying their Christmas break with family and friends, I was packing my bags for a month-long trip to Spain and Morocco where I was going to study international business. Aside from booking the flights and packing, there was still a lot of preparation that needed to be done. First and foremost, this was my first time traveling outside of the country and I was excited and a bit anxious for the experience, as anyone should be. However, when two of my friends were also accepted into the program, I became less nervous and more excited for the adventure ahead of me.

When I told my parents that I wanted to study abroad in Spain and Morocco they thought it was an interesting choice of destination, due to the fact that I have studied the French language for the past nine years and studying abroad in France just made more sense. However, after some hours of convincing, my parents were onboard. Before I knew it, I was in the Madrid terminal with the rest of the girls from the program, waiting for our connecting flight to Seville. At the time, I was a little bummed that there were no boys in our program, however I have now realized that it was a blessing to have such a small group of girls. We all became so close over the past month that I would consider every girl a good friend of mine. I met girls from Boston and even a girl from my own school that I had never met before. If you asked any of the girls on the trip, they would tell you that I am a born and raised Minnesotan with an accent that sounds pretty goofy sometimes. I am currently a junior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota with a marketing major and French minor. Other than that, I would say that I am a pretty average person. I go to college, play a college sport, have a part-time job, and get pretty good grades. With that said, this program was my first opportunity to really be independent and set myself apart from other American students.

1011247_10152132341753286_150933925_n

When I was looking at possible study abroad courses, I initially wanted to go somewhere tropical and warm. Later on in the application process, however, I realized that many of the courses would not count towards my marketing requirements and traveling somewhere tropical would not give me the cultural experience that I believed Spain or Morocco would. Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect from the experience. I could read all the pamphlets and informational books I wanted, but the real experience began the minute I stepped foot on Spanish soil. In Spain, I expected a lot of fashionable people speaking beautiful Spanish and I was not disappointed. However, I also saw a mixture of homeless people, gypsies, and foreigners on the streets. The one thing I will remember the most about Spain is the way that people interacted with one another. I was not really prepared for the way men would whistle and howl at me in the streets. I was also not used to how loud people talk, even late into the night. As an American, I value my privacy and silence at times, and I found it very hard to find this quiet time in Spain. Aside from the noise, Seville was a beautiful city. The narrow streets and orange trees are now an image burned into my memory that I will never forget. It was also very interesting to visit the different Spanish companies and observe how they operate in relation to an American company. I learned that Spain is a much higher context culture than the United States; thus, if I ever find myself working with a Spanish client in the future, I will want to make sure that I develop a good relationship with the client and make time for socializing inside and outside of the office setting. I found these company visits to be a valuable experience because I will be able to apply what I observed and inquired to my future career in business. This experience will, most importantly, help me to become more aware of my cultural lens and to actively look at the world from a cultural perspective.

IMG_4225

My expectations of Morocco were most likely less negative than the rest of the students in the program because I have an uncle that was born and raised in Morocco. I was able to talk with him before my departure and he gave me great insights into the country and the culture of Moroccans. I think a lot of people have negative attitudes about Muslims simply because they dress differently and they associate Muslims with terrorism. However, after spending time with my host family in Morocco and knowing my uncle for the past 21 years, this simply is just not the case. The Moroccans were so hospitable and caring during my stay. They were always concerned with making sure that I was satisfied before they even began to worry about themselves. This just goes to show that you cannot judge a book by its cover. I also learned that you cannot judge the Moroccan culture by only what you see because there is a deep culture beneath the surface. Coming from a culture that is characterized by innovation and success, I think it was an eye-opening experience for me to live in a place so deeply rooted in tradition, religion, and history. The one thing I took from this observation is that the Moroccan people seem to be a very unified culture, which I think we Americans are often missing. Furthermore, this illustrates the greatest contrast, I believe, between our two cultures. Though I do value my individuality, I think it’s especially worthwhile to experience the collectivistic culture of the Moroccans and Spaniards.

IMG_4262

As I sit here writing this blog, it is bittersweet because I will have to leave behind tomorrow all of the wonderful people and scenic views that have become my second home over the past month. From the flavorful sangria of Spain to the chaos of the Moroccan medinas, I am truly going to miss it all. When I finally land back on United States soil tomorrow, I will be thankful to be home with my family but also to have made all of these wonderful memories with such a great group of girls and staff. As I continue on with my studies in Minnesota, I will be especially conscious of the way I view people with whom I interact. The Twin Cities are extremely diverse and have one of the largest Somali populations in the United States. Likewise, the University of St. Thomas is becoming more and more diverse as well. Sadly, I have never really put myself out there to introduce myself to someone from another culture at school; not because I was fearful or believed that my culture is better, but because I didn’t know what to expect. I can no longer use this as an excuse because my entire experience abroad was learning to be uncomfortable in situations where I did not know what was to be ahead. Whether it was trying to spit out a sentence in Spanish to buy a coffee or visiting the hammam in Morocco, I was putting myself out there in situations where I did not know the end result. With that said, I have made a promise to myself that, from here on out, I am going to continue to put myself out there. If I would have just taken a backseat to the whole experience, it would not have been worth my time and I would not have become so appreciative of the values and cultures of the Spanish and Moroccan peoples. In conclusion, I have learned that simply being “open” to learning about new cultures is not as valuable as really putting yourself out there. Once an average person, I can now confidently say that I am still a pretty average person but with a much greater appreciation and understanding of the outside world. From my new global perspective, I see the true underlying beauty of the Spanish and Moroccan cultures, and I hope that the rest of the world gets the opportunity to see it and live it just as I did. Thank you CIEE!

02/14/2014

yo hablo español

1

Practicar, practicar y practicar. Eso fue lo que hicieron los estudiantes de Advanced Liberal Arts antes de sumergirse de lleno en la vida cotidiana de los sevillanos. Durante los tres días de inmersión lingüística, nuestros estudiantes convivieron con nativos de diferentes acentos, practicaron su español durante más de 12 horas cada día, dejaron atrás el miedo a no entender o equivocarse, adquirieron mayor confianza a la hora de comunicarse con nativos, y aumentaron su vocabulario y expresiones tanto coloquial como formales, todo ello mediante actividades especialmente pensadas y diseñadas para ellos.

2

Montar en bicicleta, hacer Kayak, tirar con arco, jugar al baloncesto, tenis, futbol o pimpón con españoles, fueron algunas de las muchas actividades de las que disfrutaron nuestros estudiantes durante el tiempo libre.

PhotoGrid_1392374289705

Sevillanas solidarias .Cadanoche después de la cena, cada participante donó un producto de higiene para entregar en la residencia de ancianos del Santísimo Cristo de los Dolores a cambio de participar en nuestras clases de sevillanas.

6

7

El domingo, después de nuestro pequeño senderismo, los estudiantes participaron en una clase de cocina española, donde aprendieron a cocinar paella y diferentes tipos de tortillas que más tarde degustamos durante nuestro último almuerzo en grupo.

8

9

PhotoGrid_1392374629007

02/11/2014

The most important lesson I’ve learned: I am completely capable of trying new things

This post is by Sarah Haberman, a Communications Major at University of Delaware. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

Sarah Haberman 1

I’ve always considered myself a relatively open-minded person, but then again, I’ve never really experienced anything to keep an open mind about. I’m a 20-year-old white female from a small, affluent town in Massachusetts. Needless to say, we have about as much diversity in our town as a pack of gum. The most diversity I’ve dealt with was likely when I left home to attend The University of Delaware, though that’s hardly any more diverse than where I grew up. I believe that in general, I’m similar to many American students in my values and beliefs, though obviously every community and every individual has their own idiosyncrasies. It’s not until we leave our communities and immerse ourselves in others, that we truly realize these values and beliefs. Over the course of the past month, I’ve learned so much about the cultures of Spain and Morocco, and even more about my own values and beliefs.

I chose to take this course simply as a chance to study abroad. As a mass communication major, international business culture couldn’t have less to do with my area of study. Contrary to my expectations, this class turned out to be incredibly relevant to both my major and my life. After all, we live in an increasingly global world, so how can a class that allows you to communicate cross-cultural not be relevant to your life?

Sarah Haberman 2

My biggest learning experiences during this trip came, surprisingly, not from the lectures or the company visits, but simply in day-to-day life either in the homestay or in the streets. While it was the information we learned in the lectures that guided me, I felt that I took the most valuable lessons from my own attempts at cross-cultural communication. I was able to take what we learned about in class—Hofstede and Trompenaars’ cultural dimensions, Hall’s communication methods, the Cultural Detective values, etc.—and apply it to how I communicated with others. Aspects of the Spanish and Moroccan culture that I may not have noticed before became increasingly apparent to me, and characteristics I didn’t understand became comprehensible. The tight quarters of my Spanish homestay were understandable after we discussed the dimension of collectivism and values of family and social relations. The fact that four twenty-something-year-old children still lived with their parents in my Moroccan homestay became logical after we discussed uncertainty avoidance. While these experiences were not in the business realm, I still feel that they will be incredibly useful to me in my future professional career. I believe that the values and beliefs that people ascribe to in their personal lives carry over into the business world. Should I work with someone from another culture in the future, understanding what they value could prove incredibly useful to me in forming a mutual trust and strong relationship between us.

I feel that this course would be an incredible opportunity to talk about in an interview because it was far from your typical study abroad trip. In such a small, close-knit group, we were able to really get to know both each other, and our teacher. I think we received special attention that we may not have had in a larger group, and partook in an experience unlike any other. During company visits we were all able to ask questions and get up-close-and-personal with our lecturers. Similarly, during class we were able to go in-depth, relating stories to our own lives and helping each other spread the understanding of concepts through personal anecdotes about both our home lives and homestay lives. Outside of the classroom, the cultural activities we did all reinforced the lessons we learned during lecture. For example, when we visited Basilippo the owner reminded us of the importance of family, one of Spain’s cultural values. When we visited the clothing factory in Morocco, we were able to inquire about where and when the employees prayed during work hours, reflecting the cultural value of tradition. Everything we discussed in the lectures was both relevant to and reinforced by our experiences outside of the classroom.

Sarah Haberman 3

Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned more about other cultures and myself than I could have possibly imagined. The most important lesson I’ve learned, however, is that I am completely capable of trying new things. When I first arrived at my Spanish homestay I was really anxious, but after a few days I felt completely at home with my host family. I found that if I told myself that “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad,” it was much easier to make the transition from the US to Spain. While the transition to Morocco was a bit more difficult, I told myself the same thing. I tried new foods, I attempted to speak the language, and I let myself be open to anything and everything. While I didn’t “go native,” by any means, I tried to really experience both cultures. If I didn’t, I would have simply been living in an American bubble on another continent.

In order to learn even more about why people in other cultures value what they do, I think the simplest answer would be, just ask them. While I spent the majority of my time here quietly observing, I didn’t take much of an active role in my exploration of values. Sure, I know what the people of Seville and Rabat value, but I don’t know why. I would be extremely interested in doing further discovery as to why certain cultures are the way that they are. While I don’t think that I would find any concrete, black-and-white answers, I think it would help me assume the role of that culture and better understand their point of view. Most importantly, to understand other cultures I need to learn to completely remove my American cultural lens. Sure, I studied abroad for 3 weeks and I may return to the US feeling as though I’m completely accultured, but the truth is that I am far from ever truly understanding either Spain or Morocco. After all, I was born in the US and I don’t fully understand my own culture. I believe that it’s only through returning to Spain and Morocco again, asking questions, and really immersing myself in every aspect of the cultures—not just the glamorous parts—that I will fully understand their beliefs and values (and I look forward to doing so).

Sarah Haberman 4

02/10/2014

LIBERAL ARTS, SPRING 2014, ISSUE I

NewsletterBannerSeville686x101

PhotoGrid_1392043860552

ANOTHER THRILLING SEMESTER BEGAN A MONTH AGO!

Through the week of 13-19 of January, students had their onsite orientation. The orientation was equally devoted to informative sessions (such as academics, housing, health and safety, etc) and to activities that helped students to start get to know and navigate Sevilla. For example, we did a great variety of tours such us tour of the barrio, city center, a scavenger hunt activity, practical shopping and  emblematic monuments.

During orientation, it is very inspiring for us to observe how every day, as jet lag fades away, the faces of students become more and more excited!

Then, after the first week living in a new city, with a different language, brand new friends and a “new family” to live with, students started their first class.

THE INTENSIVE SESSION

The first academic challenge is over! All program participants have already taken the final exam for their intensive session class where they had the opportunity to brush-up their Spanish.

PhotoGrid_1392043628978

The intensive session is the perfect preface to the academic life in Spain. Now, students are settled with their final schedule of the CIEE and Cursos para Extranjeros classes. So now, it is the time to start joining extracurricular activities which will help students to become aware of the Spanish culture from multiple perspectives.

We promise more exciting news very soon!! Please, visit our blog and Facebook page for more up to date info on your students’ experiences abroad.

Warm regards from a super rainy Seville!

Jorge, Sergio and Olga 

02/03/2014

An eye opening experience

DSCN0688

This post is by Liza Baier, an Accounting Major at University of St. Thomas, MN. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

Before this course began, if somebody asked me to describe myself I would have said that I am a young Caucasian woman currently attending college in Minnesota. However, now that I have had this experience, I understand my cultural background is much more extensive. I am an American with an Irish and German ethnic background. Additionally, I identify with the Catholic religion; although, I am not strictly practicing it. I am a middle class American and a college student studying business. Specifically, I am an accounting major so there are not many opportunities for international travel as accounting standards are different in America than they are from the rest of the world. I decided that I would take this winter course because that way I can finish all of my accounting classes on time while still getting an international study abroad experience.

My expectations coming in were that it was going to be a relaxing trip to Europe and a very modern area of North Africa. However, I was not prepared for the culture shock that I experienced in both Spain and Morocco. The lectures were very interesting and useful in becoming acquainted with the different cultures we encountered. The classes discussing cultural dimensions allowed me to understand the differences I was observing instead of being overwhelmed with them such as the more polychronic time schedule and the higher power distance seen in both Spain and Morocco. The lectures also made me realize that the way I do things in America may not be the most efficient and effective way of doing things in other cultures. I thought I was more open to accepting cultures that were different than mine, but I discovered that I was displaying an ethnocentric attitude towards the experience. I had to push myself to recognize that my American culture was not superior. For example, I was initially shocked by the conservative approach to cooking and cleaning. There was no space in the showers and laundry was done once a week without a drying machine, but eventually I grew to become more flexible with everyday tasks and learned to enjoy the low-maintenance lifestyle in Spain and Morocco.

DSCN0560

I also did not realize the differences in values that are so prevalent in various cultures around the world. My frustrations were very high when it came to not having a synchronous schedule and listening to people talking in the streets. Seville and Morocco had very noisy, abrasive environments that intimidated me. My assumptions had always been that other places were just like America where discussions are quick and to the point and everyone sticks to a specific schedule for the day. However, the first hand encounters we experienced through visits to businesses in Spain allowed me to realize that Spain and Morocco emphasized other areas of their lives such as family. Through this awareness, I was able to observe how people in these cultures chose to live in the present instead of planning for the future. It was refreshing to visit the olive oil farm and learn about how they have the means to expand their company, but they would rather enjoy life in Spain instead of taking on an international workload.

By better understanding the values of people from Spain and Morocco, I was able to realize what was most important for me in America. I thought I relied on my family more, but after this trip I recognized how much more independent I am than I originally thought. Many children that we encountered during our course were our age or older and still lived with their parents or came home for every meal. I can go for months at a time without seeing my family and I do not usually tell them where I am going or what I am doing. Additionally, while it was a good experience to be introduced to the Spanish and Moroccan idea of space, I realized how much more room I have in America. It is not just in houses, but in the streets and at restaurants our culture tends to have much less contact with others. I found myself really missing the way things were in my own culture, which allowed me to better appreciate what I have at home.

DSCN0987

I think it was essential for me to have the experiences I did in order to better understand what I want from life and to appreciate the opportunities that I have as a woman and as an American. Especially in Morocco, the inequalities in gender roles were very prevalent. Additionally, the shock from the level of poverty was quite significant for me.  I have never seen so many beggars in the street. Homeless people in my area of Minnesota are seen very rarely. It took a while for me to realize that this is not a taboo lifestyle for the people in Morocco. I grew to believe that if they were better off financially, they would still choose to live their traditional lifestyles. Thus, the trip to Morocco was the most eye opening for me because I realized that having nice things and a strong financial foundation is not the only way to find satisfaction in life. The people we encountered in Spain were recovering from an economic recession and those in Morocco did not have much money; however, they were still genuinely happy. People were out late at night visiting and laughing with each other and seemed to be living life to the fullest.  

I always heard growing up, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I never realized how difficult that really is to avoid. This trip allowed me to comprehend how important it is to look past the visual environment and become acquainted with a culture through the people. It is important to not only meet people, but to immerse yourself in their lifestyle to fully understand why people value what they do. For this reason, the homestay is a very important learning aspect of this experience. Additionally, this course taught me more than anything that you need to push yourself outside your comfort zone and experience many different cultural encounters in order to fully understand what you value most in life. After experiencing this short time abroad, I feel I have a clear idea of what my future values and goals will be in life from both a career and social relationships.