Just 24 days until I leave for Alcalá! It is hard to believe since our recent weather has been cool and rainy and the trees are just beginning to leaf out. The average daily peak temperature in Alcalá for the months of June and July are hotter and dryer than in Madison so it will definitely be a blast of summer when my flight lands in Madrid.
This will be the first time I travel independently and the second time I leave the country. Last spring break I volunteered in the Dominican Republic (the DR) with a group of UW students from Chadbourne Residential College through a service-learning course. Flying to the DR was practically my first time on an airplane, as the time before that I was five years old and don’t remember anything. So, I am a little nervous about the THREE connecting flights I’ll be taking to Spain. My previous travels consisted of family minivan trips to Wisconsin Dells, Chicago and Minneapolis to visit relatives, and a caravan to Biloxi, Mississippi for a service trip through Badger Catholic. Needless to say, I’m pretty inexperienced at traveling: I actually had to google how to put the UW-Madison International Academic Programs (IAP) luggage tag on my backpack since I had no idea. Volunteer work in the DR definitely whet my appetite for international travel and learning about other cultures.
My high school Spanish teacher (major props to her!) sparked my initial interest in study abroad. Señora explained that no matter how much you learn in the classroom, you can only truly understand a language and culture if you live in a country where people speak that language. Some of my AP Spanish classmates were native Spanish speakers; Señora’s highest praise was bestowed on those who could sound like these nativos.
After my CRC Global experience in the DR and with my growing desire to become fluent in Spanish, I became more convinced that study abroad was the perfect option for me. Persuading my parents was only one of the hurdles to overcome. Another problem was that it seemed as though I was trying to squeeze too many classes into too few semesters. I had to think about the Spanish major requirements, the pre-pharmacy prerequisites, and studying abroad, AND fit all of it into my two-year plan. Sounds crazy, right? I met with my Spanish advisor and my pre-pharmacy advisor; they both said that it would be difficult to include study abroad if I wanted to stay on my two-year track for entering the School of Pharmacy. But, they were also very encouraging and said it could work by including summer school and taking heavy course loads each semester. I was prepared for the challenge because I wanted to study abroad and I was determined to make it happen.
Another concern for many students considering study abroad is the cost. Dan Gold, UW-Madison IAP Director, has initiated a new scholarship program called the IAP Scholars award (http://www.studyabroad.wisc.edu/iapscholars.html). One of the components of the award is the Share Your Experience project, which helps students discover the world and bring it back to UW-Madison. I was fortunate enough to have been chosen to receive one of these scholarships and decided to blog about my particular situation as a pre-health professions student. I want to show other students that you can complete your difficult math, physics and science prerequisites (Chem 345 – I’m looking at you!) do study abroad, and stay on track. I want to spread the word to the pre-health students that study abroad is possible with lots of planning and strategizing.
Stay tuned for Finals, Packing and Flying, Oh My!