Hannah Belyn Study & Intern in Madrid

Hannah Belyn sitting on stone ledge with body of water and hill in the background.

During the Summer 2023 term, Hannah Belyn participated in the Study & Intern in Madrid program.

How did you find out about this program?

I found out about the Study & Intern in Madrid program mainly by browsing the study abroad website. I had heard that the U had an extensive program list for a variety of majors and locations. Initially, my search was out of curiosity, but as I began to learn more about this particular program, my intrigue grew. I wanted to be in a Spanish-speaking country so that I could learn Spanish in an immersive way.

What were the highlights of this experience?

Hannah Belyn holding two cups of coffee and a bag filled with bread.
Hannah in Oporto, Portugal.

The best memories I had abroad were those with my host family and friends that I made during the program. Before this, I had never left the country, so the idea of leaving the country for the first time by myself and living with people I didn't know was scary. But they immediately made me feel welcome in their home and a part of their lives. They helped me improve my Spanish, better immerse myself in Spanish culture, as well as their culture of origin, and explained Spanish politics to me—the election occurred while I was over there.

One of my best memories while abroad was one with my friends or host family around meal times. In the U.S. it's common to skip breakfast, schedule meetings during lunch, or rush through dinner. But something that I really came to enjoy was slowing down in the mornings to have breakfast with my host dads, watch the news, and talk about what our plans were for the day. Also, there were several times when my friends and I cooked a big family-style dinner together after a long day of school/travel. We'd listen to all kinds of music heavily inspired by the regions we were in. And just to be able to talk for hours about our experiences, culture shock, or interesting places we'd been.

What was the academic experience like while studying abroad?

While in Madrid, I took three courses: Cross-Cultural Psychology, Spanish II—which is equivalent to Spanish IV at the U, and Global Identity - Honors. During my time in Spain, I quickly realized that I would have to find a flexible balance between studying and fully immersing myself in the surrounding culture. I found that my usual go-to study techniques that I used at home were not as helpful to me once I got to Spain. Instead, I found that studying with my friends at their host family's house or at a park on a random Tuesday afternoon was more effective than it would have been if I had done the same thing at home. My social and academic experiences were much more organically intertwined than I had been accustomed to in the U.S.

What were the biggest takeaways you had from your experience?

By far the most interesting thing that I took away from my study abroad experience was decentralizing my conscious/subconscious American/Western perspective. Although I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable, or at least eager to actively learn about the political climate of other countries, I still found myself knowing very little about Spain's current political climate, or simply the functioning of their government. To a similar effect, learning about the immigration processes and attitudes of countries outside of North America was something I had not thought about until I got to Spain and began to watch the news and talk with my host family, who are immigrants from Venezuela.

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