Anastasia Kingsley: What goals did you have for studying abroad? What factors made you decide on the CEA program in Granada?
Alexa: I wanted to study abroad in Granada because I don’t speak a lot of Spanish at home. I haven’t had to put a lot into practice when it comes to speaking, so I had to actually practice by forcing myself to speak here. That’s why I came here, because I knew it wasn’t super touristy, and otherwise if I went somewhere where it’s easier to speak English, I probably would have spoken English. So that’s my main goal, and also learning more about the culture and trying new things. I’ve done that a lot with food here because gastronomy is a huge part of the culture. I’ve tried a lot of things here that I wouldn’t have tried in the U.S.
In what ways do you feel you have been exposed to the local culture in your time here?
Personally, I feel I have been exposed to the local culture because I’m taking a culture class here that helps me notice things a lot more, and I’ve also been trying to go to more authentic places -- places that aren’t as touristy. I’ve been able to see a lot of how the locals talk and interact with each other. Even going to Morocco was such a huge cultural difference than here in Spain. I feel like Spain has a lot of similarities to the U.S., but it’s the smaller cultural differences that stand out to me. And CEA has included a lot of activities that teach us about the culture.
What skills have you developed here that you think will help you in your future career?
Adapting to new things. Every day there’s been something new; if I want to communicate, I have to figure out a way to do that. I’m also more resourceful now than before I left for this trip. Now I know where to look for those resources, and I’m savvier in a lot of areas. I’m able to adapt to things more quickly, get out of my comfort zone, and be more comfortable outside my comfort zone since I’m in a new country.
Would you encourage other students studying business or marketing to study abroad in Granada?
I would definitely recommend Granada because a lot of businesses now are going international since it’s easier to do it online. I think it’s very useful for people in business to come here because we have a lot of different cultures in the U.S., but you have to know who you’re working with and your target audience. You have to understand differences in general. It’s also helpful to see how businesses run in different areas, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
How have you been able to manage your time between classes, social activities, and travel?
Pretty well so far! I have an hour break between my classes, so a lot of times I will go to a coffee shop to get my homework done for that class. And then, usually during siesta time, I’ll do my homework for my other classes. Being here for a month is not as hard to balance everything, at least for me. We just planned our weekend trips ahead of time, and then go out for tapas or ice cream a couple of times during the week. The most difficult thing is trying to get everyone on the same page!
How has specifically living in a homestay contributed to your experience?
I’m very happy that I live in a homestay, as it’s helped a lot with adjusting to the culture. It’s nice to be able to see how everything works, how conversation is between locals, and how people actually say things. It’s a lot easier to get accustomed. And it’s great to have my meals made for me too! I don’t think I would have had the full experience if I had not lived in a homestay.
What recommendations do you have for developing good relationships with your fellow students and professors, and others in your program?
In the classroom, participate a lot, because if you are willing to participate and come prepared, then your professors will take notice. And just talk to other people and go to things everyone plans to do, especially in the beginning, because no one knows each other yet and that’s how you make friends. There are lots of things people are doing that you can always join in on. Say ‘yes’ to things. Honestly, just talking to people is the best way to make friends.
What are one or two important lessons or takeaways you have learned so far during your time here?
I need to go out and do something like this again and travel more outside my comfort zone and experience cultures more. I’ve always wanted to but doing this has reinforced it in my mind. Take yourself out of your comfort zone, whether that’s going to another country or not, by yourself or not; it doesn’t matter where or what it is. That’s how you get more of an open mind.
Alexa will graduate in December from Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville, and plans to pursue a job where she can use both Marketing and Spanish together. She hopes to travel next to Italy or Ireland.
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