Hello prospective study abroad student!
My name is Ashley Arkfeld, and I am a first generation student as well as the first in my family to study abroad. I interned abroad in Barcelona, Spain this summer. Funding a trip abroad for an unpaid internship was something that many of my peers, family members, and friends couldn’t quite wrap their heads around. “Why are you paying to go work over there?” “Couldn’t you get a paid internship here?” “That seems like a waste of money.” I listened to comments and questions such as these for months prior to my trip abroad. Though it seemed silly to so many bystanders, the experience was worth the cost in my eyes. With that being said, scholarships and grants covered 70% of my program costs. The other 30% and a plane ticket was on me.
When I told my parents I wanted to do the internship abroad program, the conversation immediately redirected to the costs associated with going abroad and options available to me for funding this opportunity. I quickly assured them that I had already begun applying for scholarships and grants before I was even accepted into the program. Being proactive and applying early for scholarships and grants was the best thing I could have possibly done. Thank you to all of my scholarship donors for making my experience abroad possible. I (seriously) could not have done it without you all!
Although I spent my summer in Barcelona, Spain, I did not feel like I was in Spain at all. Rather, I was in Catalonia, an autonomous community comprised of Northeastern Spain and a small section of Southwestern France. There, the locals speak Catalan first and Spanish second. I learned that there is a divide between Catalonia and the rest of Spain, and that many Catalan people want to gain independence from Spain. The culture in Catalonia is quite different from that of the rest of Spain: different food, different customs, a different language, and a different kind of national pride. I also found it funny that many Catalan people think that Texas is the “Catalonia” of the US and that Texas wants to be an independent nation.
I learned to adapt to this new culture by talking politics with the locals, as the topic of Donald Trump was a conversation starter. I accustomed to eating dinner late at night, the laid back concept of time, and giving and receiving “dos besos” when greeting people. It was a challenge to communicate with locals using my broken Spanish, as I only picked up a few phrases in Catalan. However, most people were very patient and appreciated my effort to speak Spanish.
I lived with a Barcelona native, as well as 3 other girls doing the same program, in an apartment in the city. My living situation made me feel more like a local and less like a foreigner. I felt at home in Barcelona, and the city still holds a huge place in my heart. Study abroad is worth every penny (and scholarship application).
All the best,