Study Abroad: IES Granada, Spain
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Libby Rush

Libby Rush

Paterno Fellow
Major: Communication Arts & Sciences and Spanish
Hometown: Wyomissing, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about the IES Granada, Spain study abroad program by speaking with the faculty in the Spanish department. I knew I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, so I met with many of my professors during office hours to see if they had any recommendations. From there, I researched their suggestions to see which programs made the most sense for my major. Eventually, I sought out past students to hear about their experiences and learn more about specific programs, like IES.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My time in Granada, Spain was magical. In a city of about 250,000 people, I lived in a home-stay with my host-grandmother, and her grandsons visited during lunch about twice a week. We spoke only Spanish at home, and I chose to take classes entirely in Spanish. While balancing my classes with IES and the University of Granada proved demanding at times, I was still able to travel to other parts of Spain and Europe during Semana Santa, as well as long weekends. At the same time, I spent much of my time around the city of Granada in order to better integrate into the community and appreciate what my host city had to offer. In my free time, I went outdoors, walking the cobblestone streets of the medieval Albayzin quarter, hiking around the Alhambra palace, and eating tapas at outdoor bars with friends — both American and Spanish.

"To foster personal growth and discover what you're truly passionate about, I think study abroad is important for all Liberal Arts students."

How did this experience impact you academically?

At the beginning of the semester, I made the decision to take all of my courses in Spanish, and my speaking and writing skills improved dramatically during my time abroad. Academically, I felt encouraged to study subjects I hadn't considered at Penn State, like theater and Arabic, which I found incredibly rewarding despite their challenges. I had to commit more time to reading plays in Spanish and learning vocabulary in Arabic, but my improvements in language comprehension were always worth the extra effort. At the same time, I had to adjust to a different type of pedagogy and teaching style at the university that was more lecture-based. Initially, this proved to be challenging, but I made a point to go to office hours and communicate with the professor. Overall, I think my educational experience abroad motivated me to be a more pro-active learner.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

After studying in Spain, I feel more inspired than ever to go abroad again. Ultimately, I would like to go to graduate school to further my study of rhetoric, developing my skills in deliberation as well as improving my understanding of critical theory. But I would love to return to Spain to teach English and promote a global perspective to Spanish students, working with writing centers abroad and applying what I've learned as a peer tutor for the writing center at Penn State. Still, I see that my options post-graduation are wide open, and I feel encouraged to apply for positions that might have intimidated me in the past because my teachers and peers abroad taught me that it's important to put myself out there and aim high.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would recommend IES Granada to all Liberal Arts students interested in Spanish language and culture. Considering the relationships I made with locals, as well as the language skills I developed, I'd say the experience of study abroad is irreplaceable. I've grown so much more independent as both a student and a traveler, and I'm much less afraid to to risk embarrassment in order to express myself and reach my goals. To foster personal growth and discover what you're truly passionate about, I think study abroad is important for all Liberal Arts students.

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