So last week, I interviewed my friend Kate again on her study abroad experience. This week, I decided to follow-up with another one of my friends, David, on his trip. David also studied abroad in Spain during the spring semester. He went there as a junior and took business courses in Madrid. Some friends and I actually just celebrated his birthday a few days ago! David is one of the most outgoing, goofiest, and dorkiest friends that I have. So of course, I took this as the perfect opportunity to check up with him on his journey!
If you have not read my first interview with David, please check it out here: https://360.wustl.edu/2016/04/interview-with-an-abroadee-part-2/
Nancy: In your previous interview, you mentioned that you have lived overseas when you went to the Caribbean/Mexico, a 10-day trip to London and Paris, and another 10-Day trip to Israel through Birthright. Now that you have lived overseas for an entire semester, do you imagine your future self to be living in a different country for a few years or even working outside the US for a period of time?
David: Ever since I left Madrid I can’t wait to go back. It’s a bit scary to think about, but I absolutely could see myself going abroad and working a few years in a different country. It wouldn’t be immediately, nor would it be permanent, but once I get into the swing of the whole working world thing, I think I’d be willing to give it a try.
Nancy: You have also mentioned that you chose to study abroad because you wanted to have a “quintessential experience.” Has studying abroad in Spain given you that experience? Was it as “quintessential” as you expected? And, do you think you made the right choice by picking Spain as the location for it?
David: Yes, Yes, and a hundred times yes. I’m someone who tends to keep himself pretty busy. I’ve been involved in upwards of a dozen extracurriculars, plus classes, and just loads of emails. Study abroad was a vacation from all of that. I disconnected. I took a break. Never have I ever had so little responsibility. It sounds cliché, but I really was just left with loads of time to “find myself” if you will. I learned more about how I want to spend my time, how I approach the world, and what it’s like just to take a deep breath and appreciate your surroundings. It was the best experience of my life thus far, and I have never regretted my choice to pick Spain. The culture, the language, the people, the food, the Sangria. Spain was a great place to explore and immerse myself.
Nancy: I’ve also asked you about the pros and cons of studying abroad. You mentioned that you loved the amount of autonomy you have over your choices but found the discipline to attend the less rigorous classes more challenging. Now that you are back at Wash U, how would you describe your return from being abroad? Has it been easier or more difficult than you expected? What are the new pros and cons that you experience?
David: Coming back is hard. I actually have to do things. Just kidding. Joking aside, coming back all I wanted to do was talk about my time abroad. It became somewhat of a joke with my fellow interns this summer that whenever I started to tell a story, my friend Dan would very sarcastically ask, “Wait, did you study abroad?” Being back makes me appreciate the rigor of WashU. I’m in one of the most intensive course loads I’ve had in my four years here, but I’m enjoying it. It’s great to be back, focusing on both school work but also being able to see my friends. Group Skype calls just cannot compare to a dinner at Ibby’s or a Harry Potter movie night with your best friends. Being abroad really made me appreciate all the great things I have here, especially the people.
Nancy: Previously, you said that Wash U has given you the support for this experience and has prepared you to take responsibility, taught you how to meet new people, and give you the tools to live on your own in a foreign country. Has your experience studying in Spain better prepared you for Wash U courses, especially now that you are in your senior year?
David: Spain gave me the preparation I’ve yet to encounter in American schooling. I grew up in a rigorous high school. Strong academics, set tracks, assigned work. Spain has prepared me to take ownership of my courses. To think about and act upon what I believe is best for me. It has prepared me for courses where you don’t have all the answers. You have to immerse yourself in an assignment. For example, I’m in a CompSci course that is super intense; each assignment takes a minimum of 10 hours. But like Spain, you just have to put in the time and effort to tackle it and explore every facet of the problem, the language, and the culture.
Nancy: After interacting with students from your university in Spain, do you feel like you have picked up on certain traits or behaviors? If so, describe three of the most unique ones!
David: I’ve definitely picked up on some of the more chill traits of Spaniards. I grew up in Connecticut, or as I like to refer to it on tours, a small suburb of New York. Everything is fast paced and pretty intense. People care. A lot. In Spain, that sense of urgency just isn’t there. People are more relaxed, more comfortable, and on the whole appear to be less worried about the small things. So the three most unique traits I picked up were relaxation (I took a lot of naps), a slightly more detached approach to problem solving (without exaggerating potentially unimportant issues), and a renewed desire to continue learning and asking questions.
Nancy: If you could summarize your abroad experience in one sentence, what would it be?
David: Honestly, it was just a ton of fun. Short and simple.
Wow, wow, and wow! David has had a truly incredible study abroad experience. From enjoying his own personal freedom to spending a weekend in Zurich and another in Valencia, he has definitely savored every moment possible and took whatever opportunities available!
To quote David’s own words from his last interview, “Trust your instincts. Your heart has to be in it and you’re going to have to make a lot of decision, so make sure you’re comfortable with whatever you decide!”
I am so glad that David’s back though, and I look forward to one more year with him!
~ Nancy <3