Curious about study abroad?
Camelia Valldejuly, Currier Senior, and Harvard Office of International Education Student Adviser spent her junior spring in Barcelona. To hear how a term abroad can enrich your undergraduate experience, please contact Camelia at email@example.com and check out her bio below for inspiration. For more student testimonials visit the Because I Went Abroad section of the OIE website or jump to the programs page to start planning your term abroad.
Before going to Harvard, I had the opportunity to study abroad for a summer in Paris, France. I took French classes throughout high school and was able to further my language skills while studying there. I loved living in Paris, and I was fascinated with the history and culture that surrounded me. From that summer on, I knew I wanted to study abroad when I went off to college, no matter what college I ended up attending. Because I had learned French, my plan was to continue to take French classes during my college career and study abroad somewhere in France.
However, as we all know, plans change. After senior year of high school, I grew tired of French classes, and when I arrived at Harvard, I decided not to continue with the language. Nonetheless, my desire to study somewhere in Europe didn’t wane. During my fall semester of sophomore year at Harvard, I thought for a long time about where I could study abroad, and I decided that Spain was the perfect choice for me. Not only is Spanish my native language, but much of my family came from Spain and many of my relatives still live there. I knew a little about the culture, and I couldn’t wait to learn more. By winter break before sophomore spring, I was fully decided on going abroad, and I found the perfect program to apply to by the middle of the spring semester.
When deciding to go to either Madrid or Barcelona, Barcelona was the natural winner for many reasons. First, I saw on the OIE website the CASA Barcelona program, a Harvard- affiliated program. The fact that Harvard was a part of the consortium of universities made it easier and more streamlined to apply to the program, which was great. Second, I was looking for a completely immersive experience, and by directly enrolling in Spanish universities through the CASA program, I would be able to have that experience. Third, and most important, Barcelona’s political situation, as the capital of Cataluña, was intriguing to me. Cataluña is one of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities, with its own language and its own identity, and there are strong independence movements in the region. As a Government concentrator, I thought it would be incredible to experience this situation first hand. Finally, I applied to CASA during my junior fall, and flew to Barcelona in January 2016.
I had so many high expectations before starting my semester abroad, and my expectations were exceeded. I made great friends from my own program, and met other international students from various parts of Europe. I was able to experience a completely different educational system from Harvard’s and actually take Spanish courses with Spanish students. Apart from learning in the classroom, my friends and I travelled almost every weekend, and ended up going to seventeen cities in almost six months. Traveling around Europe was one of my favorite aspects of studying in Spain, but I also had so much fun when we stayed in our dorm-style apartments in Barcelona and tried to cook for ourselves. Living in a city like Barcelona and traveling to so many places really forced me to learn time-management skills and become independent. Riding the metro to class everyday made me feel like a full-fledged adult!
Studying abroad in Barcelona has been my best semester at Harvard yet! I didn’t need to perfect my Spanish language skills, so that was not my primary motivation to study abroad in Spain. Still, the experience was incredibly rewarding in so many ways, and I feel like I grew as a person on many different levels. I encourage anyone who is even slightly interested in doing it to DO IT! You won’t regret it.
Whether you are committed to the study abroad experience or just beginning to consider it, I urge you to contact me. We can hash out the differences in a summer vs. semester abroad, explore program options, or just swap travel stories. I look forward to hearing from you.