Studying Abroad has seriously been the greatest experience of my life! There are just a huge amount of experiences that I have lived the past four months that have changed who I am and have prepared me for the big scary working world back in the States. Between all of the people I have met, the improvements of my Spanish skills, and the experiences I have had, there is no way I can NOT be more prepared for the life I will lead.
As far as the whole “after graduation” and “real world” part of the equation - let me explain a bit more. Being abroad presents you with the ability to travel, which to people back home just looks like we are slacking off from school and just on vacation, but it really gives you so much more. The independence skills you gain from any solo adventures you take, the whole potential language barrier thing you may encounter with the struggles of communication skills, plus discovering public transportation in big cities, and just everything!
I personally believe that coming abroad, leaving your life behind, and essentially being “on your own” for four months inevitably changes you whether you try or not. I took this one step further and sought out a career enhancing opportunity - the internship. Taking this step in the professional direction has definitely been a beneficial experience for me. It allowed me to make great professional connections, see how the marketing side of an architectural, engineering, and construction software company operates. This experience allowed me to further work on my Spanish skills and actually apply them to my field of study, marketing. I was able to complete market research, translate documents for their website, input data into their system, and so much more. It was nice that CEA offered the opportunity to not just see the world, but expand my resume in the process to get some real life experience to better prepare me for the working world. Not to mention it is a great gift to be able to have firsthand experience to see what the working world is like in a different country, with different customs, expectations and everything. It allowed me to see the world differently, and if by chance, I work for an international company in the future, I will be able to explain from personal experience why that country operates the way it does.
Learning to interact with people who are different from you is an important life skill as well, which studying abroad allows you to do. The joys of the International Business Program (IBP) here at the University of Alicante allows you to not only interact with Spaniards, but students from all over the world. Now I personally have really good friends from Scotland, Germany, Spain, England, etc., all who one day could be a potential business connection. And if nothing else, they could be a place to crash in the future when traveling and an excuse to visit those countries.
Studying abroad has had such an immediate impact on my life. It will be interesting to see what the actual long term affects are of this experience when I go home. I'm not looking forward to the inevitable “reverse culture shock”, but as much as I don’t want to admit it, it's time to go home.
Jennifer Plazek is the Spring 2013 CEA MOJO in Alicante, Spain
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