Vale vale vale

By Marie Kimball (CAS’23)

“Vale!” Hearing this expression in my home, in class, and on the streets was confusing at first. Throughout my time in high school and at Boston University, I had been learning Mexican Spanish. Now that I was in Spain, there was a lot of new lingo I had to learn, including “vale,” which pretty much means “OK.”

For my fall semester of 2021, I decided to study abroad in Madrid, Spain, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

On the very first day a bus dropped me off at my host family’s house, and this probably would’ve been the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life if I hadn’t just been on two different planes for ten hours. So actually, I was about to fall asleep and didn’t have anything else on my brain. But, I had never lived with a host family before, and didn’t know what to expect. Well, it was one of my favorite parts of the experience. I lived with a family with three young children, and between the lively family dinners, movie nights, and weekend strolls around the city, I grew very close to them and was sad to leave.

My classes were fantastic, as well. BU Study Abroad students in Madrid attend the Instituto Internacional, in which students from many American universities take classes in both English and Spanish. My three classes were about literature and women’s history, and all of them were in Spanish. Professors who had lived through the Movida of the 1980’s and Franco’s regime from 1939-1975 all shared their firsthand experiences with us while we learned from their expertise. It was a great experience.

While in Madrid, I also had an internship at La comisión para la investigación de los malos tratos a mujeres, or what was essentially Spain’s commission against gender violence and prostitution. Not having just gotten off of a plane this time, I was extremely nervous my first day. Tackling a job in my second language was a daunting task, but every day was better, and by the end I felt like I had developed meaningful relationships with all of my thoughtful and patient coworkers. My coworkers and I still text on what’s app to check in!

Also, I met great friends with whom I travelled within Spain and throughout Europe on the weekends. Between visiting Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, Barcelona, Italy, and Portugal, I had so much fun, and learned so much about different cultures. That I had this opportunity to travel still seems surreal. It was incredible.

Finally, I learned more about myself than I had in the previous few semesters combined. Living in a different culture from your own, without any familiarity (at first at least) with the people around you allows you to unlock parts of yourself you couldn’t before. For instance, I learned how to spend time with myself, and began to love it. I spent plenty of time with myself, going to different museums and cafés, or even just walking around the city to explore and think. I enjoy being with myself like never before. Also, from all of the new experiences I’ve collected, I have a better perspective every day. This one is harder to explain, but I feel as though I have my priorities in line more now, and have achieved more balance in my lifestyle.

And it’s true that you might read all of this, and simply say “vale, vale.” However, I hope you take my experience as reason to study abroad yourself. You won’t regret it!

Photo credit: Marie K.

The London Study Abroad Experience

By Richard Boylan (COM‘22)

Unsure about whether studying abroad is for you? Here’s some of the best reasons to consider a semester in London!

1. Academics

Admittedly, a great academic experience likely isn’t the first thing you consider when picturing a semester in London, but the classes are unlike anything you’ll take in Boston. With classes taught by British professors each places a uniquely UK-centric focus on your typical major classes. Think a film & tv class focused on the history of British genre films with multiple field trips including a visit to the West End to see a musical satire of the Royal Family. Even more exciting is the guarantee of an internship during the semester. During the second half of the program you’ll intern four days a week at a London-based company getting hands-on experience in your field of interest.

2. The Social Programme

Just as important as academics is the BU London Program’s emphasis on getting to explore the city. The Social Programme is the official name for the various events and day trips offered to students throughout the semester. Visits to Stonehenge, soccer games, plays, Warner Brothers Studio, and national landmarks like Kensington Palace are all offered to students at significantly reduced prices and offer the best value anywhere to see London. Since BU’s study abroad programs are open to a number of partner colleges and universities these events also give you the chance to meet students from all over the U.S.

3. The Museums

London not only boasts some of the best museums in the world, but many of them happen to be free too! The Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and Victoria & Albert Museum are all located within walking distance of all three of the BU London residences. Each offers a unique experience ranging from the ability to experience a magnitude 6.9 earthquake to exploring an exhibit on the rise of David Bowie.

Looking to spend the afternoon exploring famous artwork from as early as the 12th century? The National Gallery is the museum for you. With three wings, the National Gallery houses some of the most well-known works from artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Monet, and van Gogh. More interested in mummies and ancient Greek artifacts? The British Museum offers a centuries spanning collection from around the world including its crowning gem: the Rosetta Stone. 

4. Take A Weekend Trip to Europe

Arguably the best part about studying abroad in London is its proximity to Europe and the rest of the UK. Weekend trips to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland are only a short flight or cheap bus ride away. Similarly the Europe-spanning Eurostar trains depart from St. Pancras International Station daily. With cities like Paris and Brussels less than a three hour train ride away, the railways provide an affordable way to explore all the beauty, history, and culture Europe has to offer.

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