Written by Chalyn White, Study Abroad I-CORPS Intern

To grow as an individual, you need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, a lesson Alumna Katie Andrea ’99 learned while studying abroad in Spain. During her time at Southwestern, Andrea majored in Political Science and minored in Spanish. Originally, she chose her study abroad site because “the idea of going to Spain was just really intriguing.” Given her familial ties there, along with her desire to put her Spanish minor to good use, she made her way to Spain. Little did she know, this experience would change her as a person and how she viewed the world. 

Senior year can be especially busy for college students, filled with applications for graduate school and job searches. Andrea, however, decided to use her final year at SU to learn outside of the classroom and opted to study abroad. At this point, she had been learning Spanish for ten years; she had a family history there, and “after talking to family members it just seemed like the obvious choice.” When she first arrived in Salamanca, Andrea struggled with the language but found the locals to be very understanding. She was pleasantly surprised by how kind and patient the people of Spain were during her stay. As you can imagine, smartphones were not common in the late 90s, so Andrea could only work with the Spanish she had learned over the recent years - it was a truly immersive experience. 

Improving her speaking skills and overall understanding of Spanish culture was just one part of the experience. Andrea quickly learned that it was completely normal to make mistakes, and she grew from them. Not only did her language skills progress; her problem-solving and communication skills also improved during this period. While in Spain, Andrea experienced a new sense of independence. She figured out how to solve the majority of her problems herself, such as how to use public transportation to get around. Students often fear this aspect of studying abroad since it can be scary and unpredictable. However, Andrea encourages students to study abroad and embrace the unknown because it will help them become a stronger version of themselves. If you can handle living in a foreign country, then you will be ready for all of the challenges that life throws at you. Additionally, you will gain a new sense of confidence in yourself and a new set of skills from studying abroad. 

Andrea has a lot of advice she wishes she could share with her younger self. Most notably, she wishes she had gone abroad earlier in her college career and stayed in Spain longer. Andrea emphasizes that college is the time to explore! This is the time when you grow into who you are and develop your own beliefs; going abroad further enhances this growth. She also points out that the most ideal time to study abroad is while you’re in college. With the help of numerous scholarships and student discounts, the price of studying abroad can be much more reasonable. Would she go abroad again? Absolutely! Andrea still visits Spain with her family to this day and she encourages students to study abroad and to take advantage of this one-of-a-kind experience. 

If you are interested in studying abroad, start planning now! Check out our website and Instagram page to see all of the opportunities and scholarships we have available. You can browse approved study abroad programs through Via, Southwestern’s study abroad software system. If you have any questions or concerns about studying abroad, contact the Office of Study Abroad at studyabroad@southwestern.edu