UMD: A Globally Connected University

Kara Siglin

Program: ​USAC Spain: Spanish and European Studied in Madrid
Term: Fall 2018
Major: GVPT International Relations

I loved my semester abroad in Spain! I am so glad I got to experience a completely unique culture firsthand. The routine of daily life took a little bit of getting used to, as everything in Madrid is different than what I am used to here; for example, most Spaniards don't eat dinner until around 10pm! I lived in an apartment in the center of the city, and had to get really comfortable using the metro and the bus system to get to class every day. There was only one other UMD student in the program, which was daunting at first, but now I am happy to say that I have a network of close friends from all over the country! The four months absolutely flew by and now I feel more independent, open-minded, and motivated to make travel and international experiences a lifelong interest. 

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad:  There are some major differences abroad regarding dating culture, PDA, and even personal space! Just be prepared to learn how to observe, accept, and adapt to cultural differences without being judgy, but also remember to know yourself and your limits with what you are comfortable with. 

I didn't have class on Fridays, so I spent most weekends traveling with my friends. We took the bus or flew (for super cheap - shoutout RyanAir and EasyJet!) to different parts of Europe and even spent a couple of days in Morocco! It was like a crash course of different cultures and lifestyles, all compacted into a single semester. I really enjoyed comparing and contrasting the different places I went. I did sometimes feel out of place or even a little uncomfortable in the places that I went to, but I found that it was in those cities that I learned the most and grew the most as a person. I wrote all the time in my journal and compiled pictures from every place that I went, and I know I'll treasure those memories.

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: There are so, so many program options! Some are more expensive than others; some are language-intensive; some are only two weeks; some have great program-sponsored excursions and some just send you out on your own. No matter who you are, there is one out there for you! 

At first, I found it difficult to balance talking to my friends back home with being present and in the moment. Of course I wanted to stay in touch with the people I loved, but it often made me more homesick to hear their voices, and sometimes I felt left out of things going on back home (even though I was the one that got to be abroad!). Eventually, I found a balance of checking in with my friends while focusing my energy on enjoying where I was and the new people I was with. Best of both worlds!