I knew I wanted to study abroad before I even knew what college I wanted to go to. Nearly 60 percent of students here study abroad, and this accessibility was one of the reasons I chose Gettysburg College. The Center for Global Education (CGE) not only has many options but is also very helpful with the process, from applying to programs and acquiring a visa to preparing to leave. They were incredibly helpful for me when I studied abroad twice—once in Madrid, Spain, and once in Prague, Czech Republic.
When I declared my majors in Spanish and art history, I began planning my first study abroad experience for my sophomore year. Studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country is a requirement for the Spanish major, and this perfectly coincided with my plan to go abroad. I spoke with CGE and my advisors in each major to make sure I would receive credit for my courses and stay on track for completing the majors. With all of this being possible, it then became a matter of choosing a location and a program.
I chose to study in Madrid first, taking four classes taught in Spanish through the IES Abroad program and one class through the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. At the Universidad Complutense I was able to take an art history class in Spanish, which challenged me to combine my fields of interest, and through my other courses, I had the opportunity to explore new subjects, such as Spanish architecture and history.
These opportunities in Madrid built upon my education at Gettysburg College. By spending a semester in Madrid, I was able to visit works of art and architecture in real life. My art history class on El Greco, Goya, and Velázquez met every week at the Prado Museum, where we viewed timeless artworks in person. My Universidad Complutense course brought us to Toledo, and I was able to take a trip to Córdoba and Granada to see the intricate architecture of the Great Mosque of Córdoba, and the Alhambra in Granada. So much of the subject was brought to life for me by exploring it in a new way.
After having such a positive study abroad experience in Madrid, I knew that I wanted to go abroad again in Europe, but I also wanted my second experience to be different from my first. I decided on the School for International Training program in the Czech Republic focusing on the Arts and Social Change
I studied abroad in Prague this past fall, and in one of my classes we visited a different non-governmental organization (NGO) each week and discussed what we learned and observed. One of my favorite experiences from this class was visiting the People in Need Foundation, specifically their One World film festival, which was centered on themes surrounding human rights. As part of this festival, the organization uses screenings as a platform for education and conversation on human rights issues, which I thought was an innovative method.
While many of my courses were hands-on in nature, learning the craftsmanship of bookmaking as part of my independent study project was also a great way for me to dive into a specific topic and to research, learn, and create something tangible and reflective of my study abroad experience. The concept of hands-on learning was the foundation for my project and paper, and by immersing myself into this learning style throughout my study abroad experiences, I found joy and interest in many new things.
I’m grateful to have been able to enrich my education by bringing it outside of the classroom. From studying abroad, I have learned so much about myself, how I learn, and how subjects that I’m interested in can be combined. I also found that I can adapt to different environments than I am used to at home, and I was able to develop my skills in planning and organization, in order to make the most out of each educational adventure.
I know that now that I’ve returned to Gettysburg College from Madrid and now Prague, I will continue to seek opportunities to expand my interests, and continue building new skills both here, and wherever I may be.