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Spain: Learning from abridged experiences studying abroad

August 21, 2020
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Gabriella Gigante, an LSA senior majoring in international studies, Spanish, and communication & media, studied advanced language and culture in Madrid for two months before her program came to a halt amid the spread of the coronavirus.

Gigante’s experience abroad was a cautious one, as she considered the prospect of COVID-19 cutting the program short for weeks before it came to an end.

“During my time there, I became very committed to doing as much as I could, especially as news of the spread of COVID-19 became more publicized,” she said. “Since Italy was the first European country to suffer from it, it made me aware that I could be sent home at any moment, making my time [in Spain] even more precious. I tried doing a couple of new things each week, so that by the time the semester had come to its premature end, I was confident that I had taken full advantage of my time in Spain.”

On March 10, Madrid announced a closure of all schools and that classes would be moved online for two weeks, which included Gigante’s program. While the announcement stated that the program members could stay in Madrid and continue online classes, it prompted many to start planning to travel back to the United States. However, travel arrangements back home had to be made even sooner than anticipated.

“On March 12 at 2 a.m. Madrid time, I received a phone call from my dad telling me that Trump announced a European travel ban that would be effective in 48 hours,” Gigante said. “Even though we realized later that it would not affect American citizens, we knew that it would result in less flights to the U.S., so I bought my plane ticket for that very same day at noon within minutes after I received the phone call. My roommates and I spent the entire night packing and the majority of us left that very day.”

Although such short notice left Gigante little time to process her goodbyes, she left knowing that she had experienced the personal growth she had hoped to achieve while abroad.

“Obviously, I was extremely sad to have to leave early. I had a lot of plans for the rest of the semester, but everyone in the program was fully aware that it was inevitable,” she said. “Studying abroad was definitely the greatest decision I have made in my life thus far, because although cliché, the popular quote that states not everything can be taught in a classroom is undoubtedly correct.

“Some things require you to live through them firsthand because opportunities such as this one can stimulate the greatest amount of growth in a short period of time. Even the experience of waking up in the middle of the night to news of Trump’s European travel ban forcing me to buy a plane ticket for a flight that very same day was truly unforgettable and a learning experience in itself.”

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