Less Study, More Abroad

Posted on Friday, May 05, 2017

Everyone knows that ‘studying abroad’ is a synonym for ‘blow off semester to take time off from school in order to see the world and have fun’, right?

Wrong. I had thought the same thing too- up until this semester when I discovered that couldn’t be further from the truth. Although I am not and will not be in a classroom at any point in time during this semester I still have managed to learn so much. In fact I would argue that during my time in Spain I have learned more than I have at any other given four month period in my life (being fully immersed in the Spanish language for a significant amount of time has drastically improved my Spanish vocabulary- lesson #1).

While I am not sitting in a lecture hall Monday through Friday, I am sitting at a desk in an office five days week. Which leaves weekends to explore new cities and countries because traveling within Europe is cheap (even though this is true it still adds up and thus isn’t as cheap as it initially may seem- lesson #2). Through my many adventures this spring I have learned quite a bit; more than I expected to considering I am not getting a formal education (experiential learning teaches you better lessons than those from a textbook- lesson #3).

This is my first internship in college and working for the Commercial Services at the U.S. Embassy has definitely made me feel like a grownup (especially since most Spaniards don’t get jobs until their mid-twenties and stay at home with their parents until then (one of the many cultural differences between U.S. and Spain that I have come to understand - lesson #4)). Not only have I gotten to practice my professionalism, but I have had the unique opportunity to learn about the way our government works- specifically the Foreign Service within the Departments of State and Commerce- from the inside (lesson #5; before this internship I had little to no knowledge over the matter).  

With every place that I visit I learn new lessons- some of these have been harder than others but nevertheless all tremendously valuable. So even though I may not technically be going to school this semester I have come to appreciate that the world is in fact the best classroom there could ever possibly be.

Maureen McClellan
US Commercial Service
Madrid, Spain | spring 2017