Stepping out of comfort, West studies abroad in Spain

For Olivia West (Junior; Sales & Marketing; LaPorte, IN) desires for studying abroad was to challenge her mind into thinking in different ways. She loved Purdue, but wanted to broaden her horizons. So she went to Spain seeking inspiration. Of choosing the location and program Olivia said, "I decided on Spain because it was financially the most attractive option and I felt good about going to a program that was very well established and had a good reputation."

As West was stepping out of comfort to do college in a new country, some things remained the same like getting up early and being done with class by 1 PM each day. This was very accommodating to her cultural exploration goal. One of the biggest differences Campus life is pretty much nonexistent. Students are well-rounded young people that are engaged in their community. Olivia said, "You go to class and then you go home. If you want to engage in other ways, you have the time to do so and I appreciated this. I was able to spend my free time exploring the city and going to the many museums that Madrid had to offer. I was also able to volunteer once a week by handing out food to the people experiencing homelessness."

The classes at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid were a little different, too. An exchange study abroad program is very independent. West's personality allowed her to be successful but suggested this program is well suited for someone who is wildly independent and is willing to engage with others all the time. She said, "There is no " hand holding" when arranging travel, accommodations, or academic assistance." The benefit of this is a program that will expand your intercultural awareness, West says, "but only if you are willing to take a chance on yourself."

As she returned to the United States much earlier than expected due to COVID-19, she quickly realized her Spring 2020 semester abroad was over. Olivia remembers the great picnics in the park after class, sunsets at my favorite hill outside of the city, the cheap eats at my favorite restaurant are over, but the friendships made over the two months are something that she will have forever. West explained, "I made friends from all over the world. Friends that I still connect with every day over social media and FaceTime. Madrid was cool, arguably one of the best places to study abroad in, but the people and friendships were the best part of my entire experience." Her short time in Spain was an amazing experience that she "wouldn't trade for the world."  West continued, "The two months that I spent in Madrid changed my perception on hard work and how I will be able to balance my work life and still enjoy my life. I am settling in at home nicely as I have time to pursue my personal business goals and play with my new ideas that I gained from Spain."

Olivia concluded with what she would remember a year from now: business development. She went to Spain seeking something different and she found it! "I have never thought of myself as an entrepreneur but I am now. One of my favorite things to do in Spain was to go to the grocery store to get fresh squeezed orange juice. At almost every grocery store, they have a fresh squeezed orange juice machine. I want these machines in grocery stores in the United States. It is a great product called "Zumo de naranja" that I enjoyed and I want to share that with the world. I have been on Zoom calls with my mentors and have begun putting together business plans to get my idea rolling."

What a wonderful (and productive) way to spend a semester!

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