Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine before I even attended college in the fall of 2016. The thrill of being in a new country and making friends around the globe was something I wanted to experience, but was unsure I would ever be able to do. Coming from a single-parent household attending college has been a huge financial decision and investment. My university did not offer me scholarships and financial aid, leaving me to look elsewhere for financial support. Through CEA, I was able to reduce my program costs by $1,500 through the Financial Need Grant, flight voucher, and distinction award.
The Financial Need Grant was important to me because it eased some of the financial burdens so I could study abroad in Madrid. I was able to use this money to help cover my cost of staying with a host family in Madrid, Spain. A benefit of staying with a host family in Madrid is not having to worry about cooking and doing laundry. My host mom’s food was much better than anything I would have made for myself! We continue to stay in touch through WhatsApp, sharing photos of our families and daily experiences.
Part of my study abroad experience was also impacted by my identity as a female, second generation Mexican-American. I found my nationality and ethnicity were confusing for many. At first, this experience was exhausting and frustrating. It felt like much of the racial burnout I would experience on campus, but reflecting on that experience now, I see that it was also an opportunity to educate others. Forty percent of California’s demographic identity as Hispanic and Latinx. I was able to articulate why policy issues like immigration and expanding social services are important and directly impact me and the people in my community.
Throughout my time in Madrid, I felt very fortunate to be able to attend classes in Spanish Language and Culture with others of similar backgrounds. Coming from Los Angeles, most of my friends are of Mexican descent, with Central and South Americans not being as represented. However, in Madrid, I got to experience the vast cultures and dialects that define Spanish language and culture. I met students from Texas to Chicago and New York who were Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Guatemalan. For me, this was the first time my classroom felt truly diverse and we were able to talk about our experience as Hispanic and Latinx students in Europe.
Thanks to CEA and their Financial Need Grant, I was able to partake in a collective shared experience with students who have gone abroad. Being home and looking back at the photos, I miss my friends and our adventures. I am so thankful for CEA for providing me with an opportunity to make lifelong friends at a fairly low cost.
Rubie Gonzalez-Parra is a CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, during the Summer 2019 term. She is currently a student at Humboldt State University.
Read more about our CEA MOJO Bloggers & Photographers.