I can honestly say I’ve wanted to travel my entire life. I’ve always been curious about the world and wanted to explore it, I just never had the resources.
When I was in high school looking at colleges, AU stood out to me because they said 65% of their students study abroad which I knew I wanted to experience.
When I arrived at AU, I realized that unlike me most students had traveled extensively and brought that international perspective into the classroom. That made me more determined than ever to travel and gain my own international experience.
In the fall, I went to the Study Abroad Fair. I was basically only looking at programs in Spanish‑speaking countries and China. (I was adopted from China at eight months old) The Barcelona program was interesting, but the Madrid program was a better fit with my degree in International Relations. All the stars aligned for me to go on the Madrid program.
So I enrolled in the “Clashes and Alliances of Mediterranean Civilizations” program, and last August I headed to Madrid! I’m not going to lie. That program is the best AU study abroad program. No doubt about it.
What’s great about study abroad is that the cost of travel ‑‑ while still expensive ‑‑ is linked to your tuition. My program in particular included planned trips to Greece, Morocco, Italy and Andalucia in the South of Spain.
Within the first three weeks of the program, I was emailing my AU advisors to see if I could study in Spain the following semester, too. I wanted to make sure I’d have the academic credits I needed if I stayed. I did. In fact I picked up a Spanish minor during my second semester, so staying actually helped me strengthen both my language skills and my degree.
The staff at the AU Center in Madrid is really incredible. I would describe them as your Spanish family. They make sure to set up your homestay, teach you about transportation, and guide you throughout Madrid and on program trips.
In the bubble I grew up in, things were very competitive and intense. Everyone was ambitious and always stressed out. But once I got to Spain… Phew! <<laughs>> Their philosophy for life is “no pasa nada” which means “Don’t worry about it” or “Relax, it’ll all turn out alright.” It was something I definitely had to adjust to. Sometimes my Spanish host sister teased me and called me a nerd for studying too much!
Honestly, living in Spain was the best thing that could have happened to me. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized how burnt out I was. It was refreshing for me to be less scheduled and not plan every single aspect of my life. I had free time to just explore the streets or wander through a museum without a plan. On our trips, sometimes an itinerary would say “TBD.” American Annie would have lost sleep over that. Spanish Annie was just like, “no pasa nada.”
Read more from Annie in a Q&A about her year abroad.
- By Adriana DiFranco