The relationships you make on this trip will be the most meaningful part of your journey. I made best friends from Arizona, Connecticut, and New York, from completely different journeys in university. We found community and security in this confusing, unfamiliar place. Spain was a beautiful place. But, the people I had on this journey was my favorite part.
When I left for Spain, my biggest fear was not making any close friends in the program. But as soon as I got there, I knew we were all scared and lonely. And around this community based culture had me around a community at all times. Our group went through our fears and troubles together and we always kept each other safe. Most importantly, we got to experience beautiful cathedrals and museums together. And we got extremely close in a matter of weeks. Whether it was navigating a new city, planning an itinerary, or making decisions together, collaborating during the trip we did it together. This made me have a sense of partnership and trust in my relationships more than I do for people I have known for years.
I loved Spain for its community and collectivist culture because the U.S. is so isolating and individual based. The U.S. prioritizes our own wins and making it to the top that we tend to forget the most important things. Making meaningful relationships and experiencing our lives together. In a UTC class called Positive Psychology, the professor said the greatest indicator of happiness is the satisfaction of one’s relationships. I truly discovered this on my journey with my friends abroad. We connected faster than any other relationship as we conquered the same challenges together. And together we experienced the beautiful city of Madrid and the welcoming and exciting culture. We went on trips to Barcelona and visited the Sagrada Familia cathedral and met people from all over the world in the nightlife. We went to a music festival and saw Rosalía, Kendrick Lamar, and BabyKeem. We tried traditional tapas and drinks. I got to experience the beautiful European lifestyle of slow-paced trips filled with lattes and wine. I got to experience the true community of always spending lunch and dinner for two to three hours talking into late hours with my friends. I never felt so filled with community, even as a study abroad student with friends I have known for two weeks.
Exploring different parts of the world that created a broader perspective on life. This perspective taught me how to connect with people and enjoy the differences of others. I created bonds and trust with people I knew for very little, but we also experienced the chaotic beauty of a foreign country together. In contrast, it taught me independence as I navigated the city by myself. It taught me more about myself by creating connections with broken Spanish. It also taught us more about our life in the United States and how that defines us. As we met people from England, Ireland, and Australia, it showed how much our culture differs and creates our own perspectives and personalities. It was eye opening to be around all these different culture shocks. The most fulfilling thing was experiencing all the culture and challenges with my friends. From my journey to yours, it will be beautiful with amazing company.
I chose studying with CIEE because they had a very supportive group. I really enjoyed how helpful the staff was and how they reached out to help with anything from coffee recommendations and directions. Our group was 15 people and I enjoyed getting close to everyone. If you are looking for a study abroad trip with guided trips, small groups, and a personable staff choose CIEE!
Jolie Chiang (BS Communication) spent the Summer 2023 semester studying abroad in Madrid, Spain through CIEE. Jolie had the following to say about studying abroad, “The relationships you make on this trip will be the most meaningful part of your journey”
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