Upon returning from my study abroad experience, I was able to participate in CGIS’s alumni ambassadorship. This experience provides me with ample opportunity to speak with other students who have studied abroad, students who are planning to travel abroad, who are here visiting UofM from abroad, etc. While working as an ambassador I've been able to participate in many events where I can share my experiences to assist students and help CGIS with promotional events like the study abroad fair. I find this to be extremely valuable as I enjoy getting to know other students, and learning about their experiences is exciting and enlightening.

When I was applying for my study abroad experience, the CGIS advisors and staff were very helpful with making sure applications met all requirements. At any point, I was able to reach out to advisors with questions and would promptly receive detailed answers or explanations, which is very much appreciated when there are a lot of application deadlines. Even while abroad I was able to contact the advisors at CGIS to receive assistance if needed. Overall, my experience with CGIS has been very positive, the advisors do a great job at reaching out and getting students involved, providing assistance, and ensuring that we’re prepared before leaving.

Upon return, CGIS offers opportunities to stay involved with the study abroad and international community which I recommend all students to take advantage of. Before leaving for my study abroad program, I utilized the MCompass website to search for available scholarships and funding opportunities. I applied to both the LSA CGIS scholarship and found that the program I was applying for had program-specific scholarships for anyone looking to study abroad, don't hesitate to search for funding opportunities; studying abroad is an amazing experience, and coming across these applications made it so financials wouldn’t hinder my experience. So if this is something you’re concerned about or that’s keeping you from pursuing a program, definitely check out the resources on MCompass and talk with a CGIS advisor.

It's also a good idea to check if the program you’re applying for has a website. Sometimes these websites include testimonials or previous students’ blogs. Within these; you can gain a lot of insight into the program to prepare you for your experience. I was fortunate to find lists of items to pack, student guides, and even videos about the program online which made the process much less stressful to prepare for. Overall, your experience is what you make of it and I hope you can make it a great one; if you put in the effort to get out there, make great friends, and try new things, remember not to hesitate to ask for help and guidance when needed!

Below is a converstation Calista had with Barcelona SAE about her experiences. This section has been reposted from the Barcelona SAE website

If you were to sum up your Barcelona experience in one to two words, what would you say? My Barcelona Experience is…

Empowering and Memorable

Explain why you chose those words.

I found it empowering and memorable because it taught me to be comfortable with the unknown, to take risks, and to be more confident and independent. It was also an amazing experience where I made lifelong friends and memories.

What was your favorite place to eat in Barcelona? Favorite food?

My favorite place to eat was Yicha for their sandwiches, and my favorite food overall was Tortilla de Patatas.

What was your favorite tour, day trip, or cultural activity? Why?

I really enjoyed the day trip to Girona because I watched Game of Thrones, as well as the cooking classes because I love to cook.

What was your housing experience like? Did you live in an apartment with other students? A homestay with a local family? A residence hall on your Barcelona campus?

I was in a homestay with a local family, and I really enjoyed the experience. It taught me a lot about myself and Spanish culture, improved my speaking and comprehension skills, and got me out of my comfort zone. Even though I was very nervous at first, I definitely recommend homestays to future students.

Is there a site in Barcelona that you would recommend to future students that may be a little more “off the beaten path”?

It’s not very “off the beaten path” but I enjoyed exploring cafes near my homestay in Sant Quinti/Clot area and found that El Cafeto was my favorite to go to for studying, reading, or just socializing. The owner also hosted language exchange sessions and was very welcoming.

If you had one perfect day in Barcelona where would you go, and what would you do?

I would head to class in the morning, get out around 1 pm, and meet with a few close friends for lunch or a coffee. I would then head back to my homestay for a siesta and to drop off my bags. Afterwards, I’d find a nice place to hang out like a park or cafe to do work or read. Head back to the homestay and eat dinner with my host family, and then meet with friends that evening for drinks or dancing and karaoke.

What was something you were surprised to learn about Barcelona or Spain? Or what aspect of the country or city were you least expecting?

I was surprised to learn that Uber wasn’t allowed and that personal space wasn’t as big of a thing compared to how it is in the U.S. I also wasn’t expecting to feel so safe especially with this having been my first time traveling to Europe and doing it alone.

What is one piece of advice that you have for future students coming to Barcelona?

Utilize your resources and don’t hesitate to reach out when you have questions or need help.

Why was Barcelona SAE the right program for you?

With it being such a tight-knit program, it was comforting and supportive in a way that allowed me to feel at ease when attending events alone. The program felt more personalized and I really enjoyed how the line of communication was open and transparent between staff and students. I learned a lot from this program inside and outside of the classroom.

Have questions for Calista about her experiences in Barcelona, Spain? Contact her at cclouse@umich.edu.