Ahhh Spain. What is it about my study abroad experience that has me itching to go back to the land of the Alcazar, el Greco, flamenco, and sangria? Perhaps, it’s the sensation of a new culture at your fingertips. Maybe it’s the mixture of ancient and modern infrastructure that lets you see the past’s influence over the present. Or perhaps it’s the feeling of independence as you take risks like navigating through an unfamiliar city only to find places you probably would have never known had you followed a rigid route. All of these encompass the study abroad experience, but what did it actually mean and how would it translate into the grand scheme of things such as life after undergad?
In the spring of 2014, I took a leap of faith, regardless of my financial constraints and decided to study in Seville, Spain. When I first transferred into Binghamton, I had a goal to become a double language major in hopes to enter the United Nations as a professional translator. Part of college is realizing that sometimes what you want in your freshman year will not be the same in your sophomore, junior or even senior year. Every semester was different. The journey of life is arbitrary in how we get to our ends. My career goals didn’t change overnight, however, it was a slow progression that started with me taking a Contemporary Issues in Spain course at BU and ended with going abroad. No, I didn’t abandon my original dream altogether. Instead, I dreamed bigger, and I acted. Studying in Seville opened a whole different world. I travelled to countries I never imagined I would go, saw things I only read about in textbooks and learned about the political, and cultural aspects that shaped Spain. I talked to Spaniards about past historical events, the current economic condition, corruption, religion and the needs of the people. In those short four months I became familiar with the issues not only of Spain, but of other nations as well.
A passion for social justice slowly emerged and I became more and more interested in human rights work. I wanted to know how governments and NGOs were tackling these issues and how I could get involved. During my time away, I applied to the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) Accelerated program (shoutout to CCPA) and was accepted. This was a first step to develop and expand my knowledge and skills in relation to local government and non-profit service. Soon after, I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to intern at the UN Global Compact where I worked closely with the Women’s Empowerment Principles Team (I’ll discuss that another time).
Studying Abroad transformed and inspired me to be a world changer. We live in a country where we have access to mounds of information, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we gain a full perspective of the world around us. We’re spoiled and distracted, however, once you choose to venture out to unknown territory, and witness the standards of living outside of our American comfort zone, you begin to realize what is truly important. The moment you try to fit your life essentials into a suitcase is the moment when you’ll start to have a different outlook of life.
Angelica Quintana, Masters of Public Administration Candidate