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Kalliope Kantanas explores Spanish culture on Maryland-in-Barcelona

Program: Maryland-in-Barcelona
Term: Spring 2024
Major: Public Health Science 
Minor: Spanish Literature, Linguistics, and Culture

Studying abroad was an amazing and impactful experience for me. I learned to become more independent and self-sufficient by navigating a new city and becoming so familiar with it that, by the end of the four months, I no longer needed navigation or Google Translate every step of the way. I immersed myself in Barcelona's culture and customs, spoke Spanish daily to communicate with the locals and became more resilient by welcoming and facing the challenges of living in a new place head-on.

One of the most amazing parts of studying abroad was making new friends from other universities through my classes and forming friendships with University of Maryland students through Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). I also developed a meaningful relationship with my Spanish professors, who were always eager to teach and interested in how their teaching style compared to our experiences in the U.S. Their dedication to our learning was evident in their passionate and engaging teaching methods.

My experiences and learning abroad will have a lasting impact on both my academic and professional careers. My language skills have greatly improved, allowing me to enhance my communication with Spanish speakers, which has opened up more career opportunities for me. Additionally, I now view public health science from a more global perspective, understanding how it impacts Europe compared to the U.S. This global viewpoint is crucial because it enables me to consider diverse health strategies and solutions, making me more effective in addressing public health challenges worldwide.

A Standout Memory…

One day, while waiting for the bus before class, I met a lady and complimented her shirt in Spanish. She wanted to tell me the name of the store so badly that she waited for me the following Tuesday at the same time, knowing I often saw her then. She missed two buses just to wait for me and tell me the store's name. Although she spoke Spanish very quickly, I managed to understand her and we had a delightful conversation.

This interaction pushed me out of my comfort zone, as it required me to use my Spanish skills in a real-life setting with a native speaker. It was a challenge, but I am proud to have overcome it. This unexpected connection with a local not only boosted my confidence in speaking Spanish but also enriched my understanding of the culture. It was a reminder of the kindness of strangers and the beauty of human connections that transcend language barriers.

If I had never studied abroad, I don't know if I would have ever visited Spain. My family is Greek, and whenever we take a vacation, it's always to our motherland. However, after studying abroad, I learned why it is so important to visit other countries and immerse myself in different cultures. It is because experiencing new cultures broadens your perspective, enriches your understanding of the world, and fosters personal growth in ways you can't achieve by staying in your comfort zone. The exposure to diverse traditions, languages, and ways of life enhances your empathy and adaptability, which are invaluable skills in both personal and professional contexts. Additionally, I will definitely be back to explore more of what Spain has to offer.

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