When Spanish major Lydia Kudret found out she had been accepted to U-M’s Spring 2017 Santiago de Compostela, Spain study abroad program and U-M’s Summer 2017 Santiago, Chile study abroad program, she said she couldn’t choose between them, so she decided to participate in both programs.

“I thought, ‘Why not?  What other summer will I be able to do this?’” Kudret remarked, as she considered future internship plans and upcoming responsibilities.

Kudret spent twelve weeks studying abroad prior to beginning her junior year at U-M, where she also is majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience and minoring in Community Action and Social Change.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot since I’ve been at Michigan, but I feel like I haven’t had such an exponential growth as I had this summer,” Kudret reflected.

In Spain, Kudret completed two courses, one a Spanish pragmatics course taught by Prof. Stephanie Goetz, Romance Languages and Literatures (RLL) Elementary Language Program Director.  Kudret said she enjoyed the course’s focus on language and culture.

“It made me more aware of my surroundings and I could take what I learned from the class and apply it to walking around in the world around me,” said Kudret.  “I got really lucky with the group I went with.  We had a great team and classroom spirit.”

Kudret’s second course focused on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route.

“We got to apply what we were learning about directly to what we did,” Kudret noted, regarding hiking a section of the Camino de Santiago with her classmates.

On the Santiago, Chile program, Kudret studied Latin American and Chilean history.  One of her courses was taught by Prof. Sergio Villalobos Ruminott,  RLL Associate Professor of Spanish.

“I learned a ton about Latin American history and about the world in general,” she said.

During both study abroad programs, Kudret participated in a variety of excursions, including biking in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, visiting hot springs in southern Chile, whitewater rafting, touring the Ribeira Sacra region of Galicia by boat, and visiting Portugal.

“The excursions were a wonderful way to visit different parts of where we were,” Kudret remarked.  “We would learn about these places in class and through our friends and we would go and actually see them firsthand.  It was so beautiful.”

“The excursions showed different sides of the places we were in,” she said.  “I love exploring.  I love traveling.  I thought it was amazing I got to visit these places I may have not gotten to visit unless I was on this program.”

Kudret, who speaks four languages, including Uyghur, Mandarin Chinese, English, and Spanish, began learning Spanish in sixth grade.  She noted that communicating in Spanish throughout her study abroad experience involved actively focusing on the language.

“Your mind is working all the time,” Kudret said.  

Kudret, who is interested in a career in the field of child psychology, said she expects the languages she speaks and her life experiences to continue to benefit her work.

“Having these backgrounds helps me connect with people and have a baseline in common to relate with me,” she said.

At U-M, Kudret is involved in a number of activities, including being a teaching assistant for a Psychology 211 Project Outreach class, volunteering at a local preschool and at Mott Children’s Hospital, serving as president of environmental action organization EnAct, writing for Mentality magazine; she is also a member of Alpha Delta Phi.

Kudret highlighted the significant impact studying abroad has had on her life.

“Putting myself in a completely new situation forced me to re-evaluate what’s important,” she remarked.