School of Communication
Major: Theatre, Spanish minor
Locations: Barcelona, Spain & London, England
Programs: Spanish Language & Culture Summer Program in Barcelona; British American Drama Academy (BADA)
- Academic Planning
- Identity & Diversity
- Language Learning
- Health & Safety
- Cultural Adjustment
- Readjusting to NU
Barcelona: In Barcelona the twenty-five or so people on the program and I were housed in a dormitory called RESA. Each day we walked from RESA dorm to our classes on the UPF campus, located about fifteen minutes away. The location of our housing was perfect! We lived in a beautiful area called Barceloneta and our dorm was located one block away from the beach. Some Spanish-speaking students were living in the dorm at the same time as us. However, RESA was mostly inhabited by English-speaking students who were studying abroad. I lived with another Northwestern student on the Barcelona program in a double sized room which included two desks and a kitchen area. The housing was wonderful because we really got to know the other people on our program and travel the city with them. We all challenged each other to speak in Spanish outside of the classroom, too.
London: In London we were housed in an apartment building on Edgware Road whose residents were students from our program, other programs, as well as London locals. The hustle and bustle outside of our apartment was constant – we were situated in a highly populated part of the city. Located a few blocks away from Marble arch, it was great to be in the center of the city. I was placed in an apartment with three other students attending BADA. Our apartment had two double bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. My favorite part about the apartment layout was our living room, which was large enough that I could rehearse scenes in it, eat dinner with friends, or simply relax alone and watch television. The walk from our apartment to school took about 40 minutes but it was through the stunning Regents Park. Each morning, the walk gave me a chance to not only wake up but to center myself and get ready for a day of acting classes.
Barcelona: The Barcelona program is a Northwestern run program – I knew before I went abroad that my classes were going to count towards my degree. I took three courses in Spanish which all went toward my Spanish minor. It was a great way to get ahead in my degree progress.
London: I went into this program not expecting many courses to transfer because they were all theatre related. However, more than a couple of them did transfer towards my electives and helped me get ahead in my degree progress, as well. In terms of actual learning, though, these courses were exactly in tune with what I was getting at Northwestern. As an acting conservatory, the curriculum was even more focused on acting, which was extremely beneficial to me and even more than I expected, going into the program.
Barcelona: The three courses I took in Barcelona could be compared to a high 200 level course / 300 level course that I would take at Northwestern. They were rigorous and we were learning from native speakers. Because it was a summer program we took the classes almost every day, which, to me, accelerated my learning because I was constantly practicing. The expectations were high; we had a fair amount of homework to complete each night, although less than I would have received at Northwestern.
London: The instruction at BADA was a bit different, naturally, because it was conservatory style. We had intensive days of study (classes from 9-5 each day) but less “homework” at night. We had several essays for our theatre criticism courses but other than that, homework was rehearsing scenes and memorizing. Expectations were extremely high; you were expected to be memorized, have worked hard on your scenes, thought critically about the shows we had seen and so on.
Barcelona: Because the trip was only a few weeks, most of the time was structured for us so that we could maximize the experience. After classes we would have a group outing to see a Gaudi house, a museum, a certain neighborhood, etc. We took weekend trips to Madrid and Carcassonne. I didn’t do any traveling on my own; when I had free time I spent it exploring Barcelona with friends. We would try new restaurants and go to the beach.
London: BADA was a semester long experience in which I had a week long midterm break - I ended up doing a lot of stuff on my own and with friends. After classes we would either go to the theatre or go hang out at the local Pub. We saw about two shows a week. The local Pub was how we ended up meeting a lot of people as well as bonding with the other students in our 40 person program. On my midterm break I traveled with five other girls to Barcelona and Italy (Florence and Rome). We had a wonderful time – we stayed at youth hostels and traveled on budget airlines like easyjet. I was the “Barcelona leader” since I had just been there the past summer while another girl on our trip was the “Italy leader,” since she spoke Italian. The trip went pretty smoothly and I was happy to see a new country as well as revisit one that I love!
Barcelona: This is the one part of the trip that I regret a bit. We didn’t find many locals to hang out with because time was very structured. However, two local students came to chat with us once a week. It was great to get to talk to them and learn about their lifestyle. They helped us with our Spanish, too, which was great. I spoke with some students at the University we were taking classes at but these moments were limited.
London: I met a lot of locals in London, which was nice. I became friends with a few locals who were connected to BADA. We also met many people from our neighborhood at the local pub. It was a great time and I still keep in touch with some of these people, today!
On both of my study abroad programs I felt very welcomed, as both an American and African-American. People in London liked to mention my American accent – it led to conversations on what part of the States I was from. I found that whenever my nationality was mentioned it was in a positive light – people were interested in America and asked questions about it which I was happy to answer.
Barcelona: Before I left for Barcelona I studied up on conjugations and tenses. I made it my goal to practice for at least half an hour outside of class each day before departing. When I got to Spain I realized that I had to let go of trying to be perfect and just speak in the moment with the people I was meeting. If I made a mistake, they would understand me. And, what I didn’t realize until later was that I was learning a lot more of the language by putting myself out there as opposed to formulating a sentence in my head before I spoke.
London: I almost always traveled with friends. Whether it was during my midterm break in Italy and Spain or during the term when I was sightseeing in London, I tried to make sure I was always with another person. Because the language of England is, obviously, English, I had an easier time asking for things if I was lost. But, during my midterm break in Italy, things were a bit more difficult. If I was splitting up from my friends to go somewhere alone, we would pre-establish a time and meeting point.
London: I would advise students to throw themselves into the culture of the country they are studying in. You’re not going to be abroad for that long of a time and you’ll regret it if you don’t! I did a ton of things while I was abroad in London but I still regret not doing enough sightseeing and not interacting enough with the locals. It is easy to hang back - but the reason you’re abroad is to learn and experience something new. I encourage everyone to be bold and have confidence while they’re abroad to maximize on the experience.
I wish I had taken advantage of a few more opportunities. There were some things that I passed on because I was either working on an essay (which was important but could wait!) or I was tired or more comfortable staying at home. I think students need to realize that they are abroad for a limited time and sometimes there are cultural experiences that you shouldn’t pass up on, regardless!
Readjusting to Northwestern wasn’t too difficult. I was definitely more outgoing when I was abroad because I wanted to get to know the different culture and the people. However, I think I carried over some of this spirit when I got back to Northwestern; I started going to more events and making more friends.