Study Abroad Leads to Unimaginable Growth
Regan Luker discusses her learning abroad experiences in Toledo, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal and reflects on how they informed her career path in international business.
Majors: Spanish & Portuguese studies, finance, international business
Minor: political science
Graduated: August 2017
Studied abroad in: Toledo, Spain, May 2014 and Lisbon, Portugal, spring 2016 and spring 2017
What was your trip like?
In Toledo, it was full immersion. I was at a school called the Fundación. There were many students from Puerto Rico there, and Spanish is spoken throughout the school and the city, so I benefited from the 24/7 language practice. Because it was May term, my whole study abroad group had the same courses and spent pretty much all day, every day together. I lived at the Fundación along with five other girls from my group (we were all roommates there) and everyone else lived with host families, but we all spent class time together and got together in the evenings after dinner pretty much every night. We grew very close in a very short time.
In Portugal, it was quite different. I took one class in English with students from my program and with other students studying abroad from other countries. My other four classes were direct-enrollment courses at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, completing my Spanish and Portuguese studies major. I was able to make friends in my classes and learned a lot about what a Portuguese university is like. With the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), there were plenty of out-of-class activities that also led to very close friendships within my program group. We had weekly conversation hours and biweekly excursions organized by CIEE, and we also found plenty of time to spend together in the evenings and on weekends. I lived with a host family and that seemed to create a great balance between spending time with my program group and getting to know the city and the culture on my own. I also got to practice my Portuguese a whole lot living with a host family.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time abroad?
One of my favorites was the first day of my CIEE program, when we went home from the airport with our host families. My host family was a grandmother, Teresa, and her two cats. It was election day and Teresa took me to vote with her and then to the cafeteria in the mall next to her house for a traditional Portuguese lunch. I didn't expect to learn about the Portuguese electoral system on my first day there! Teresa calls herself my "Portuguese grandmother" and we still keep in touch.
How has learning abroad enriched your life?
It has, of course, helped me in my Spanish and Portuguese studies and international business majors. Thanks to my studies, I know that I value understanding other cultures, and that I want to pursue a career in international business and/or international relations. I am also able to forge deeper relationships with those who come from another culture or don't speak my language.
What advice do you have for students who are thinking about studying abroad?
Don't let fear get the best of you when deciding whether to study abroad, where to study, or how long to go for. You will not regret choosing the longest program in the most unfamiliar place. You'll learn and grow in ways you can't imagine now.
This interview was conducted by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.