You Can Study Anywhere
From Granada to Salamanca to London to New York, four Southwestern students recall their time abroad and away and how the experiences enriched their lives and even led to a job offer.
March 01, 2023
March 01, 2023
Slowing down in Granada
As a transfer student, Grace Parmer ’23 didn’t think she could study abroad without delaying her expected graduation date. However, when she learned about the faculty-led intermediate Spanish summer program in Granada, where she could complete her foreign language requirement, she knew she had to go.
Parmer had already experienced life abroad through a volunteer program in Argentina, where she was teaching Spanish to middle and high school students. This experience hooked her on traveling abroad, and she wanted to immerse herself in another Spanish-speaking country and learn about the culture. Little did she know, she would also gain valuable life lessons about spontaneity and work-life balance.
Parmer says while in Spain, she discovered the Spanish way of life, which is to say, she learned how to stop and smell the roses, live in the moment, and say yes to last-minute plans. A workaholic by nature, she was accustomed to a fast-paced life in the US, where plans are made far in advance, and if you’re not ten minutes early, you’re late. Alternatively, in Spain, lateness is expected; if you’re 10 minutes late, you’re early.
“Spaniards view time differently, and any social outing is an event,” Parmer said. “The environment made me realize how used to the go-go-go culture in the States I am, but in Spain, they have work-life balance down. Siestas help with that.”
While in Granada, Parmer and her roommate, a fellow Southwestern student, lived with a host family. She said the family adopted them as pseudo-daughters and fondly remembers all the laughs they shared over dinners. She also interacted with other college students through the cultural provider Academic Programs International (API). API coordinated meetings with other study-abroad students and international students so they could practice Spanish and English with one another. Living with a Spanish family, interacting with locals, and conversing with other students helped her appreciate cultural differences and gave her a different perspective.
Salsaing through Salamanca
Phoebe Hamilton ’23 has been studying Spanish since 7th grade and knew that to transform her fluency completely, she should take her studies abroad. After an internal debate over where to go, she settled on Salamanca, Spain, because Spanish professor Catherine Ross told her the University of Salamanca and the charmingly small city would be the perfect place to hone her skills. Spain would also prove advantageous as her brother was already living in the port city of Valencia.
While living in Salamanca felt like being in another world, there were many similarities to Georgetown. It’s a small, tight-knit community filled with students, and as the Southwestern cheer captain, Hamilton found familiarity in a dance studio she joined. She learned the Bachata and Salsa and made many friends along the way, saying these classes, dancing with and meeting new people were her favorite parts of being abroad.
Like many in a foreign country, she sometimes felt lost, lonely, and overwhelmed, recalling that it was both undeniably terrifying and irrevocably life-changing. Hamilton was challenged in ways she had never experienced before and was forced to flourish through the struggle to communicate quickly. She found solace in her fellow students who hailed from places worldwide, like Ghana, Japan, Italy, and other Americans from various states.
“The opportunity to participate in the API program helped me broaden my horizons and realize my true skill set as a student and embolden my confidence,” Hamilton said. “I came back stronger, more confident, and ready for anything the world could throw at me.”
A journey from small-town Texas to metropolitan London
Teddy Hoffman ’24 grew up a mere 15-minute drive from Southwestern’s campus in Round Rock, Texas, and chose to attend school here because she values the close proximity to her family. However, she knew that in order to get the most out of her college experience, she would need to step out of her comfort zone and immerse herself in a completely different culture and location. A lover of all things food, music, and culture, Hoffman saw London as the optimal location for her study abroad adventure and a launchpad for travel to other European destinations.
During her semester abroad, Hoffman took classes in British life and culture, theatre in London, and the dark side of chocolate with fellow Southwestern students and taught by SU faculty. In these classes, she engaged in interactive activities that she would not have found on campus in Georgetown. And the lessons reached far beyond the classroom. She made professional connections during her internship at Damn Good Voices, a recording studio and talent agency, and learned to overcome her fear of navigating a new city. Hoffman says she was nervous about living in the large metropolitan city when she first arrived but found the tube, London’s underground rail system, extremely useful.
“Surprisingly, one of my favorite parts of living in London was the public transportation,” Hoffman recalls. “It made every corner of the city feel accessible and got me out of my shell as I could visit different boroughs I may have otherwise not gone to.”
In addition to her classes and internship, Hoffman traveled throughout Europe and visited Lyon, Barcelona, Sicily, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, and Geneva. She credits the program with opening her eyes to a world of possibilities and plans to move to London one day.
From intern to a full-time employee
While studying abroad can introduce students to new cultures, languages, and countries, studying away from campus with the New York Arts Program offers the opportunity to experience working in an arts-related field of a student’s choice.
When Caden Cox ’22 began his studies at Southwestern, studying abroad or away wasn’t on his radar. In his sophomore year, during a Homecoming zoom presentation from alumna Dorothy G. Caldwell ’92, she said her only regret as a student was not studying abroad, which planted the seed in Cox’s mind that he should pursue this. Though, like many graduates, his studies were interrupted by the pandemic putting a pause on his intentions to go to Spain. When classes resumed in person and travel was possible again, the Director of the Sarofim School of Fine Arts Administration Laura Sewell ’95 encouraged Cox to consider going to New York.
Cox had the opportunity to explore the arts through his extracurricular activities and as a theatre minor. Once selected, he spent the spring semester of 2022 living in New York City, taking classes studying the Lee Strasberg’s Method, and working as an intern at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. Cox was an administrative assistant learning basic front desk duties during this time. In addition, he was also learning how to manage stage productions, audition processes, graphic design, and how theater schools are run. Eventually, towards the end of his semester, Cox asked the school if they would let him stay on as an intern over the summer, and they agreed.
Cox says his time at Southwestern and the liberal arts education prepared him to excel in the internship. He took the knowledge he gained as a communications studies major and combined it with his initiative, goal-setting, and creative problem-solving skills, all of which he learned in classes on campus. Cox’s success as an intern eventually landed him a full-time position at the school once he graduated in the fall of 2022.
“Because Southwestern instilled confidence in me, I could advocate for myself and ask to come back, which eventually led to a job offer,” Cox said. “I developed a passion for theater arts management, and I’m really grateful because an internship is your best job interview.”
One sentiment each of these four students shares is studying abroad or away improved their lives. They expanded their worldviews, immersed themselves in a new culture, and discovered new passions and life goals. They also shared the same piece of advice: you will regret not studying abroad or away, so take advantage of the opportunities Southwestern provides.
If you are looking for study abroad or study away opportunities, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.southwestern.edu/study-abroad/steps-to-study-abroad/ for more information.