The University of Iowa

UI alumna Cat Gaa flourishes in Spain

November 17th, 2014

Virtual Homecoming is a chance share memories from your time at the UI and reconnect with your alma mater, regardless of where you are in the world. During International Education Week 2014 (Nov. 17-21), we will be sharing some of these alumni stories.

Cat Gaa in Seville
Cat Gaa wears a traditional Spanish flamenco dress for Feria, the spring festival in Seville.

A study abroad experience during her undergraduate education at the University of Iowa led Cat Gaa back to Spain, where is now thriving post-graduation.

Gaa received a B.A. in journalism and international studies from the UI in 2007 and now operates a small language school in Seville, writes and translates on a freelance basis, and is planning to launch a residency consultation firm.

Originally from Wheaton, Illinois, Gaa knew from an early age that she wanted to study journalism. When she was asked to pick a second major, she wanted something that would give her a better understanding of global politics and media, so she chose international studies.

In 2005, Gaa studied abroad through the Iowa Regents Hispanic Institute in Valladolid, Spain. The experience not only improved her language skills, but it also taught her to stop and enjoy life instead of over-planning things.

“Studying abroad allowed me to further develop skills that would eventually help me in the career I’ve chosen in Spain – a better grasp on Spanish, the ability to be flexible and quick on my feet, and a love for traveling and other cultures.”

Gaa decided to move back to Spain for a gap year after graduating in order to increase her language fluency and to inspire her writing. She ended up working for three years as a North American Language and Culture Assistant, then as a classroom teacher in a private, religious school. Now she runs a small language school in Seville, as well as a consulting company for Americans interested in moving to and working in Spain.

Cat and Herky

Cat hangs with Herky at Dance Marathon

While she never expected to be a teacher, Gaa says the UI prepared her for the unexpected.

“My education at Iowa was everything – learning the English language, studying Spanish and French, investigating global media trends. I could always tell I was working towards something else.”

At Iowa, she was fortunate to be involved in many campus organizations, including Greek Life and Telefund, but Dance Marathon always held a special place in her heart. She danced all four year at Iowa, was a Morale Captain for DM12, and has continued to be active in Dance Marathon from abroad.

“Being involved with Dance Marathon brought many incredible people into my college experience and taught me the value of living in the present,” Gaa says.

Visit Cat Gaa's blog at