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Lessons from Abroad (Study Abroad Conference)

This past weekend I attended a conference about learning abroad and taking those skills to the next level!

The conference was held in a very Silicon Valley type of environment. My definition of a “Silicon Valley” environment is a modern work space with a lot of freedom in architecture and mass creativity. You may still not understand what type of environment I am talking about. Don’t fret! I will be incorporating digital imagery from the conference into my post.

This year the keynote speaker was Fanta Aw from American University. Aw provides senior executive to 15 departments in Campus Life at American. She focuses on issues of campus  internationalization, issues of inclusion, diversity and equity, and student engagement.  The title of her talk was “What is the title of your book?” Literally, she had the attendees critically reflect on what the title of their book would be from study abroad experiences. The title of my book was “The Adventure of the Unknown,” this title symbolizes that one must step out of their comfort zone while abroad and take every task as an adventure. If you remember from earlier in the semester I shared with my colleagues that I got a tattoo of one of the Basque Country mountains. The experience played into the title of my book.

I was able to network and talk to other attendees about their experiences from the countries they represented. The common buzz word was “challenge,” a challenge to transplant and adapt into the culture, understand, breathe and live the culture. The talk about transplanting oneself into another route of study and culture. We received buzz words like “irritation, happiness, challenge.” We had to use these buzz words and describe a situation to our fellow peers that embodied the word. The word I received was irritation, so I told a story were a store clerk sold me 5 FAKE stamps at a cost of 22€ or $25, and there is no such thing as return polices at a gift shop. So I was out $25 🙁 . I shared the story with my host mom one evening over dinner and she began to cry because she felt I was insulting her and her country. I was just sharing with her the fact about the differences between a fake stamp and a real stamp, showing her the differences while conversing in Spanish.

I was able to network with professional government and non-profit organizations that seek students who have studied abroad. The organizations like the Department of State and the Peace Corps seek out those that have international experiences and can speak multiple languages.

Networking Fair

The above picture shows the space where the Networking Fair was held. You can see the space is very old, yet modern. The location is the Wonder Bread Factory Event Space, what a creative name!

Reach abroad: Teach, Work, Volunteer

The above photo was before the panel on Reach abroad: Teach, Work, Volunteer. The panelist are from all walks of life including Peace Corps, Fulbright, and The French Embassy! It was an enriching professional and personal experience!’

In conclusion, I recommend that if you have the privilege to study abroad JUST DO IT! This concluding picture really emphases the experiences of an international education.


What international education is all about, loosing yourself in time!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and if I can be of any assistance if you choose to study abroad, please let me know or you can also reach out to The Center of International Education (CIE).

Two different countries collide: United States vs. Spain

As many of you know I like to travel. I had the opportunity to study abroad last semester and in this post I would like to share a little about the country and culture.

The views expressed in this post are my own and may not accurately represent all situations in Spain. 

  1. Handicap Accessibility
    This topic is interesting and important to me because I live with mild cerebral palsy that affects my mobility.  A great amount of the population in Bilbao and the Basque Country are aging and are confined to wheelchairs or use other mobility aids like canes. The ramps are very steep on stairs and there are more stairs than sidewalk ramps. The sidewalk ramps tend to be of normal grade, similar to the United States, however, the ramps on stairs are extremely steep.
Handicap Ramp

Handicap Ramp

This poses a challenge for those in wheelchairs because many people are in self-propelled wheelchairs (without motors). The grade of the ramps can cause damage to the chair or injury to the operators hands.

2. DAB (Dance Move)

The DAB is a dance move in which the dancer simultaneously drops the head while raising an arm and the elbow in a gesture that has been noted to resemble sneezing.


This is a hand gesture used by students in university

The gesture in called PAR in Spain. The name has no resemblance to the gesture and the word literally means nothing in the Castilian language.

3. Television Commercials (Anuncious)

In the United States for every half hour of programming there are usually two breaks of commercials ranging about five minutes each. Therefore for every hour of programming the number of commercial breaks doubles.


In Spain and specifically in the Basque Country, commercial breaks all depend on the company and the amount of money paid for advertising. A commercial break can last anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes. They have a show guide in the television, however, it practically means nothing because the amount and length of advertisements depend on the amount of money paid.

4. Dogs on a leash?

A law has been established in the Basque Country about requiring dogs to be on leashes for safety of the owner and the general public. Many owners of dogs, however, do not follow this law and it can sometimes cause annoyance. The penalty for not having your dog on a leash is 25 euro. That is if the police actually stop you. This also causes health hazards to pets and the general public. Other pets and humans can be bitten if a dog is off its’ leash.

It is also wise to be cautious  as you walk through the land mind of dog waste in the street. People have there dogs excrete waste in the middle of the street and just leave it.

A sign asking owners to keep dogs on leashes and walking them. Instead dogs walk themselves.

A sign asking owners to keep dogs on leashes and walk them. Instead dogs walk themselves.

Pets are also allowed in most restaurants and bars with their owners.

The only time a dog is on a leash is when the dog is taken on the metro or other forms of public transportation.
5. Access to water

Access to water is not really a thing in Spain. Many Spaniards do not drink large amounts of water. This was a culture shock to me when I arrived to the country. In Spain you walk everywhere, so you would think that many would consume water.  There is “water is beer,” they say. There are no water fountains in schools,  everyone drinks tap water from the bathroom sinks. In addition, most restaurants will make you purchase water and not offer it for free.

6. Refrigeration

In Spain the majority of foods are not refrigerated after cooking them. The ingredients prior to preparing foods are refrigerated. After the food has been cooked and when food is left over it is typically left on the counter at room temperature for a number of days and consumed thereafter.