By: Sam Bradley-Kelly, Foster Undergraduate
Robert M. Hutchins once said, “A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals”. While I am more than halfway done with my study abroad in Cádiz, Spain, I reflect back on the transformation that has happened to me. As a student apart of the Certificate of International Studies in Business program, through my experiences in the classroom, weekly CISB lectures, and participation in other GBC experiences such as the IKEA Case Competition and Global Business Case Competition, these tools have helped me evolve my appreciation for the global community. This being my second international study experience (first in Guadalajara, Mexico), I have really taken the opportunity to do things I would never have dreamed of doing.
Prior to my study abroad, I traveled throughout Italy with the seven days I had given myself. Through good fortune, I met two sisters from Canada in Rome that were more than kind of enough to let me travel with them. We stopped in Tavernelle for a night which is a beautiful village nested by locally-owned vineyards and full of lively young children and grandparents enjoying a roast BBQ out in the middle of the streets. Before departing from my fellow Canadians, we dragged our bodies through the streets of Florence as the sun roasted our fragile bodies. Water and gelato had never sounded so refreshing.
After saying my farewells, I took a train to Venice for a day. After putting my bags in a locker and ready to explore this Atlantis-like city, I ran into a person from Monterrey, Mexico also embarking on their own adventure of Venice. I politely went up to them, asked if they had any specific plans, they said no, and I invited them to be my buddy for the day. We mustered all throughout this unique city checking out churches and museums that did not cost us even a nickel. The best part, I had the 2×1 opportunity of talking in Spanish with someone from a different country…in Italy!
Fast forwarding to now where I’m studying in Cádiz, Spain, I have really taken the approach of looking at the glass as half full, rather than half empty. A few months ago, my director posted on the bulletin board that a team from my university needed a goalie. Luckily, having packed my goalie gloves and having the desire to play a little fútbol, I gave them a ring. Ever since, I play soccer every week and even had the chance to go over to some of the players houses to play video games and talk about their lives in Spain.
Also, our director was contacted by a professor teaching English at the university wanting to start up an intercambios or exchange where local students take part in activities with students from our program. Recently, we had a Halloween celebration where we carved pumpkins, dressed up volunteers in wacky costumes, and shared much laughter and joy.
Following this, I decided to travel to Madrid by myself, but I had the fantastic opportunity to meet up with a high school friend who is studying there through another study abroad program. She was so kind enough to point me in the right direction to see famous landmarks such as the Museo del Prado, the Plaza de Toros, the Rastro Market and the Royal Palace of Madrid. It was also a pleasure to meet new friends with the same intentions to not only learn and understand a new language, but also has the same kind of motivation to immerse yourself to a new culture.
The highlight of all my connections would be with one of my past Spanish teachers who had moved back to Granada, Spain. During one of our program excursions to Granada, I seized the chance to call him up and plan a get-together as many of those in our program had taken a class or two with this teacher. We shared our stories of Spain and our future plans while we enjoyed mini-sandwiches with french fries (I have to say they were some of the best french fries I have had in a LONG time). I enjoyed this the most as the idea of meeting up with friends I have known for a long time (even if it’s my teacher) makes me appreciate the little things in life. I am especially grateful to have seen my teacher as he has been responsible for connecting me to many of the friends within and outside of this program.
In life you might encounter people that are from a different country, speak a different language, experience a different culture, but at the end of the day, you can always become friends. I see that through studying abroad you can really globalize your life by meeting those that are strangers around you. It takes a long time to grow a friendship, but every friend is a door to a new world. What I take away from this trip is having friends is one thing, but savoring the opportunities presented to spend time with strangers and friends you might not see in a long time, especially in a foreign country, is priceless.