Ramayana Kazazic, a Global Access Ambassador (formerly Diversity Ambassador), participated in the USAC Madrid Program in spring 2023. 
Thursday, January 11, 2024

Hello! My name is Ramayana Kazazic and I am a third-year international relations student. I spent my spring semester of 2023 studying abroad in Spain with the USAC Madrid Program. I spent four months in Madrid, from January to May, and returned to Iowa with once-in-a-lifetime memories, experiences, and knowledge. 

The hardest part of studying abroad came before I even left for Spain. The planning was difficult and anxiety-filled; from financial worries to thoughts of future FOMO (fear of missing out). My whole life, I have wanted to study abroad. Where? No clue, but I knew I wanted to live, study, and travel in a foreign country. I thought it would be so beneficial to me, especially with an international relations major. But the logistics of degree audits, course requirements, and application deadlines became huge obstacles to studying abroad. When my parents were in school, they never had the option of studying abroad. My mother finished her degree while working and taking care of two kids. They did not know how to apply, where to go for scholarships, or what I needed for my visa application. Nevertheless, they supported me all the way through. Along with the support from Iowa’s Study Abroad advisors, I was able to overcome these challenges and still be able to graduate a year early, add a minor to my degree, and have an affordable semester abroad. 

"Studying abroad is one of my best decisions and moving to a foreign country gave me a whole set of skills that I would never have if I had stayed home. My Spanish improved tenfold and I have a whole new level of confidence that can only come when you live in a city that speaks a language you don’t and works in a way you’ve never experienced before."

When I finally arrived in Madrid, all the excitement wore off. Fear overtook me and I immediately regretted my decision. I remember crying my eyes out saying goodbye to my parents, through the TSA line, and during the entire flight. I got to Madrid with one semester of college Spanish under my belt, not knowing one person, and feeling like I did not do enough research. My first day in the country was spent calling all my friends and family and looking up flights back home. I struggled to figure out how the dorm’s dining hall worked or how to communicate with the servers at the restaurants nearby, so I went to sleep hungry that night. I decided that I had made the worst mistake of my life; until my second day, when my program got together and was given a tour of the city. Our program directors taught us how the grocery stores worked, how to ride the metro, what to say when ordering, etc. My program of 30 students became fast friends. It was us against the world. Together, we navigated life in Spain and after a few months, Madrid became home. Studying abroad is one of my best decisions and moving to a foreign country gave me a whole set of skills that I would never have if I had stayed home. My Spanish improved tenfold and I have a whole new level of confidence that can only come when you live in a city that speaks a language you don’t and works in a way you’ve never experienced before. When I first left for Madrid, I had no idea how I was going to last four months abroad but by the end I knew that four months was not enough. The experience has completely changed my life; I plan to return to Madrid after graduation to teach English as an auxiliar. 

Rami with friends
My friend, Siena, and I travelled to Positano for spring break where we met two auxiliars who were teaching English in Madrid. They inspired me to return post-grad and work as an auxiliar as well.

One amazing aspect of studying abroad was the connection to family that I did not expect to have. My parents immigrated to the United States from Bosnia and Herzegovina in the ‘90s. Other extended family members also immigrated to other countries all over the world: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, and yes, Spain. It was amazing to discover my great-aunt and a few cousins lived only a two-hour train ride from Madrid. Because of this study abroad opportunity, I was able to meet them for the first time, something I probably never would have been able to do without. They went from being people I had never spoken to, to people I visited every month. I was able to communicate with them in Bosnian, but with my little cousins who spoke no Bosnian or English, I got to practice my Spanish speaking skills. It was amazing to see the cultural differences of Bosnians who are born, raised, and live in other countries, and it was beautiful to connect over and mix our Bosnian, American, and Spanish cultures. 

Rami and family
My mom and sister came to visit me! This is us with our family in Tudela, Spain. My mom reunited with her aunt for the first time since the Bosnian War thirty years ago and got to meet her first cousins for the first time.

Studying abroad was truly a lifechanging experience. One that I recommend for everyone, if they are able to. Moving to Spain and travelling through Europe, I have gained knowledge, made connections, and grown self-confidence that I would have missed out on if I did not make myself face my fears. It has changed who I am as a person and the path my future will take. 


The Global Access Ambassador Scholarship (formerly Diversity Ambassador) program provides awards to study abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year. The scholarships are intended to support students who study abroad with the intent to serve as Global Access Ambassadors upon return to the UI campus. Upon completion of the study abroad program and return to UI, award recipients are asked to submit a photo and an open letter to prospective students or suggest an alternate means of sharing with prospective students.

Please note that the opinions and views expressed by ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.