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Adapting to a new 'home' abroad

Posted on December 02, 2019

Adapting to a new 'home' abroad in Spain


Why did you decide to study abroad?

After my first exchange program in Spain in Spring 2015, I returned to the United States with a new sense of self and purpose. Part of that purpose was to increase the representation of women, especially women of color, in the technology industry, the other part was to return abroad. I returned to the States in June 2015, and went through an extensive period of culture shock. All I wanted to do was return to Spain. I can honestly say that it wasn’t until the beginning of 2016 that I began to feel somewhat comfortable in the US again and I owe that new sense of belonging to the fact that I had found a yearlong program in Brazil that satisfied all of my needs to finish my last year of university abroad.

Spain had a huge impact on the way I viewed myself, others and the world. I was forced to confront my fear of not speaking fluent Spanish (which has everything to do with my identity as an American of Mexican descent) and gained more confidence in myself by traveling alone. These experiences influenced my decision to go abroad again--this time, for a year.

How did you pay for your study abroad experience?

The only reason I am abroad is because of scholarships and working part time. I got multiple scholarships. I got three scholarships from my program (University of California Education Abroad Program)-- two Promise Awards and one Duttenhaver Extension Scholarship. I also received the Cal Alumni Leadership Award and the Diversity Abroad Overseas Ambassador Award.

What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?

I wish I would have done more research about the social structure of the society and the inequality in the country so I could better contextualize my experience in the first few months here. The best advice is to go without any expectations and to see what happens! That’s where you get the most rewarding experiences.

Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

I self-identify as an American of Mexican descent. I have not experienced any cultural insensitivity because of it. I’ve gotten very mixed comments about whether I look Brazilian or not, however. Because of my ambiguity, I have not had to face discrimination that other students may face.

How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?

My international experience has made me much more confident in my language learning skills, in my ability to navigate unknown situations and has solidified my passion for international exchanges. My long term goals are to live and work abroad and I’ve proven to myself that I can adapt to a new country so different from my own and eventually be able to call it “home”.

Author: Diana Arteaga

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