Ariel Zach, an international business major from Stanton, Nebraska, will travel abroad to study and complete an internship May 10 to August 4 in Barcelona, Spain, through a UNL faculty-led program at the Institute for American Universities. Ariel chose the program in Spain because she grew up appreciating the Spanish language and culture. She looks forward to experiencing both, then visiting Morocco before her senior year at Nebraska Business begins.
Paris, France – June 1, 2019
Coming to Spain, I determined in my mind that I would only explore places within Spain on weekend trips. This would give the opportunity to see and understand Spain completely, knowing the ins and outs of how different cities within the same country behave. However, when two new friends informed me about a 36-euro roundtrip flight to Paris for five days, they won me over. For more context: If you would have asked eight-year-old me where I wanted to go, anywhere in the world, I would have said Paris. Eight-year-old me would have been pretty disappointed in 21-year-old me if I had turned down that kind of offer. Alas, we were off on our Ryanair flight. If you’ve never been to Europe, this airline, along with Vueling, offers relatively cheap flights between European countries. If you ever book a flight with one of these two, make sure you check over the details of your flight carefully. From my experience so far, a cheap flight means cheaper service.
I could talk about Paris for days. I was relatively shocked to experience a culture and people I didn’t expect from the impression I grew up with about Paris. Knowing maybe three words in French, we all got by just fine speaking English. There were key differences of course, but we found it relieving to be in a country with distinct similarities, as they allowed us to split checks and provided us with free water when eating at a restaurant. These two things are prominently opposite in Barcelona from my experience. However, what I really want to share is my experience when my new friends and I went to Disneyland Paris.
Nothing too crazy occurred, except for characters singing Disney songs in French. I figure you’re probably asking: You traveled overseas and decided to spend a whole day at Disneyland? Yes. The greatest part about this, though, is I had never been to a Disney park. We have ones in California and Orlando, but my first experience happened to be in Paris. Reflecting back on a previous blog post I wrote, I remember almost being able to count all of the states I have been to on my two hands; yet, here I am exploring and experiencing things for the first time in other countries. I had the time of my life riding in a boat through the “It’s a Small World” attraction realizing that this is kind of a small world. Super cheesy, right? This attraction obviously can’t represent all nationalities and culturesperfectly, but it inspired me and reminded me why I am studying abroad. Yet again, I’m left thankful for this opportunity.
Becoming More “Cultured” – May 29, 2019
In Spain, our group of 15 Nebraska students strives to get out and experience or, as we joke, become more cultured. I’ll admit we do have the occasional, guilty-pleasure Starbucks drink; sometimes finding a place that offers iced coffee or a sweeter coffee, is rare. However, we go out of our way to order coffee in Spanish and drink coffee or eat food the way locals do. Pros and cons come from this, of course. Though trying new foods can be fun, it also becomes expensivecompared with cooking food on our own. What you see in this photo is our second attempt at a group dinner, which was a blast. I am eternally grateful that we have some good cooks in our group. All I did was supply the tortilla shells and clean some dishes, to be frank.
Group dinners provide such a great way to bring everyone together and get everyone involved. If done right, something can be cooked new or in a different way that still fits with the culture as something a local might cook up for their own family. We had some homemade guacamole, pico de gallo and rice to make some really yummy fajitas. Here, dessert is not something to be forgotten. The group in charge of desserts picked up two kinds of brazo de gitano, essentially a Spanish cake roll. It relates most closely to a homemade Swiss roll back in the States. This dinner was a good way for us to kick off the last of our time together as “just us.”
You see, this year, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln set up three tracks for students wanting to study abroad in Barcelona. Our group consists of 15 students both studying and interning here for either 12 or nine weeks. In a few short days, we will welcome another group around the same size as ours who will take classes in Barcelona for six weeks! This will be a neat time for us to begin sharing this city with fellow Nebraska students. This group I am with now will choose what to share and what not to share; some things are better found out through personal experience. Either way, our group dinners may double in size soon. This will depend on if these newcomers value the occasional group gathering or if they define becoming more “cultured” as we did, experiencing and trying new things ourselves.
Exploring Bilbao, Spain – May 25, 2019
Welcome to the northern port city of Bilbao! I took a quick solo journey here and fell in love. With a city population slightly larger than Lincoln, Nebraska, I felt the comfort of home a mere 5,000 miles away — as soon as I got over the fact that everyone here speaks Spanish. More locals in Barcelona speak English due to it being a bigger city of business and tourism. Bilbao was seemingly more quiet and underrated.
I spent my first morning accidentally joining a private boat tour on the river flowing through Bilbao and its surrounding towns as I chose to orient myself and find my bearings. Don’t get the wrong impression, though. I didn’t pay for a private boat tour; I still am a college student on a college student budget. When I say this place is underrated, I am serious. There are far fewer tourists, which makes booking tours apparently much rarer. On this boat tour, I was thankful to see the renowned hanging transporter bridge, Vizcaya, which is famous for being well over a century old. It makes sense now why they call it the “iron dinosaur.” If you ask me, I still don’t quite get how this is more effective for moving people, cars and boats, as it seems smarter to build a drawbridge or simply a taller bridge. I’m no engineer, though. If you are and you know the efficiency of this design, by all means, let me know.
Another hot spot to explore for art or architecture gurus is the Guggenheim Museum. I paid the entrance fee, (thankfully cheaper for college students) to get in for two reasons: checking out the interior architecture of the building itself and exploring “The Matter of Time” permanent exhibit. I began my college career studying architecture, and it still intrigues me to see how architects and interior designers make things work. In Richard Serra’s exhibit, I felt an array of emotions and thoughts. Serra also has a walk-through sculpture called “Greenpoint” on the UNL campus outside the west entrance of Andrews Hall. If you ever get the chance to see his work at the Guggenheim, I suggest using the recorded guide for this one, as they walk through how to enjoy this piece and assure you that all come out of it feeling a little different. I won’t spoil you with my own thoughts; if you’re interested, reach out and let’s chat over coffee. If you’ve been there, you can bet I want to know your own impression from this work of art.
Though these two things completely exceeded my expectations at the Guggenheim, so did many more of the exhibits. I was pleasantly surprised and my mind challenged through many exhibits dealing with controversial issues of today. It really opened up my mind to common beliefs of other countries as well as common beliefs those countries have about the United States. After I wandered through the museum, it was time to head back to Barcelona, giving me plenty of time to reflect and ponder.
Forget Las Ramblas – May 22, 2019
When we arrived, one of the instructions was to avoid the street called Las Ramblas as much as possible, as it is the street known for having the most tourists flooding it. There are multiple reasons to stay away, though. The first reason: Prices are often inflated around the area. The second reason: There is an increased risk for pickpocketing. The third reason: We are not tourists, as we have learned. We are here in Barcelona to have fun, of course, but to learn and to grow as people through understanding and appreciating a place different from our own.
As we dive into our second week knowing we will be here much longer, we didn’t really understand we couldn’t at least play
tourist for a little bit until we orient ourselves. However, we have obliged (for the most part) and challenged ourselves to visit other areas where more local food and people may be. Visiting other areas, we have discovered another reason to stay away from Las Ramblas: There are so many more unique places and delicious foods to try if you step off the main tourist path!
I’ll admit, where we are located in this picture isn’t too far from another common touristy area, but why wouldn’t
you get some Italian gelato while in Barcelona? If you know me, you know I can’t pass up ice cream, and I’m happy to say I met some other gals with a similar sweet tooth. We’ve been making our way around, trying foods both from Spain and not from Spain. Many native Spanish dishes we try consist of different types of tapas, basically like an appetizer at a restaurant in the States. It is common, though, for a group to order many different tapas and share here, making a full meal of tapas for all. One common tapa is papas bravas, which look like grits if I were to order them in the States; they just have a spicy sauce drizzled on top.
Paella is another food originating from this area, which is a seafood and rice-based dish. This wouldn’t typically be a tapa, though. Outside of ordering just tapas, I’ve seen people order one tapa and one dish of paella for two to share. They have pretty hefty portions of food here, so that’s usually just enough. I haven’t checked paella off my list of foods to try yet, but there are many weeks ahead for new discoveries.
Felíz Cumpleaños! – May 17, 2019
Our group successfully gained a good understanding of the metro system, so we made our way to the famous Barcelona arch, the Arc de Triomf. This arch was built around the 19th century as an entryway when the World Exhibition was held in Barcelona. What is neat is seeing the growth of Barcelona’s metropolitan area since. It reminds me of the growth over the years in Omaha, Nebraska, back home. But Barcelona is more densely populated than Nebraska because here they must build “up” and not “out.” Nebraska has a lot of land whereas Barcelona sits in the valley of mountains.
Understanding the background of this city has been phenomenal. Growing up, I don’t remember learning about how Barcelona or Spain came to be. I could have learned in school and forgotten about it, but actually seeing memorials and areas is key to making things stick in my brain.
What made things even more special today is getting to celebrate my 21st birthday with new friends in this new place! All of the girls pictured are my roommates. There are seven of us living together in one apartment, actually. Don’t worry, we function together really well. I would attest some of that is because we have a solid three bathrooms to save us from conflict. Each girl is very different from one another, yet we seem to mesh pretty well. None of us really knew each other before this trip, so it is exciting to meet other students in the College of Business.
Not pictured here is our adventure to find ice cream! We ended up in El Flako, or Corn Flakes & Co., for milkshakes made with a type of cereal. We discovered here that milkshakes in Barcelona are much different than milkshakes in the States. When we think of milkshakes, we think of something dense, primarily made with ice cream. Here, milkshakes are literally MILKshakes – primarily made with milk. It tasted like extra creamy, flavored milk. Who would have thought you’d have to order a “thickshake” if you wanted it the American way?
Quantum Technology: More Than an Avenger’s Phenomenon – May 13, 2019
Our group studying in Barcelona started our internships today! Afterward, we spent some time celebrating our excitement by getting some light foods and coffee. One thing I have already come to adore is how easy it is to order a single sandwich everywhere, rather than a full-on meal. There is no additional pressure to add a side of fries or chips. I’m more of a snacker, so I fit right in!
On just about every block, you’ll find a place like this one with a variety of sandwiches and coffee. Upon exploring, I found more places that serve some lattes, but I’ve gotten pretty good at ordering coffee with milk (“cafe con leche”) as a safe bet if I don’t want straight espresso. In the States, we often drink coffee that includes additives such as milk or sugar. In Barcelona, however, it is much more common to drink a single shot of espresso. One shot of espresso goes a long way, and I’ve seen groups bond over them for hours as they savor the smaller, stronger glass.
As we students bonded, we discussed our project. We – three others and I – will work as a group to research quantum technology and how Barcelona can become more well-known in the world for it. Essentially, we are partnering with the government to help them with part of their 2020-30 strategic plan for the metropolitan area of Barcelona. A strategic plan is made to figure out which things to focus on within the time period to make the area better. Areas such as demographics, territory, energy, mobility, economy, welfare, governance, etc., are included in strategic plans for cities or countries.
We have our work cut out for us, researching and interviewing these next couple of months! If you’re not sure what quantum technology is, we get it. We are still trying to comprehend this advanced physics theory. I don’t want to spoil anything, so check out the “Avengers: Endgame” movie to see how they use quantum technology to explain it some. Though the U.S. currently performs the best with quantum computing, Barcelona has resources such as the Centre de Cultura Contemporania with their Quantum Exhibition. Wish us luck!
See Ya In Barcelona! – May 9, 2019
Here’s me, as real as can be with my pink luggage in the middle of the country, posing for a photo as I essentially have no clue what lies ahead. I write this as I sit in the Toronto Pearson International Airport, trying to convince my mind that I will not see the States again for the next three months. Getting my passport checked, security asked me how long I will be gone, and I stuttered when saying “85 days.” Spain will be my new home away from home.
Before this study abroad trip, the only time I left the United States is when I went on the Australia study abroad trip during the 2018-19 winter break. Not to mention, of the 50 U.S. states, I visited less than 15 of them. As a girl coming from a small town in northeastern Nebraska, there is a world of things out there I have yet to experience. Coming from a town of 1,500 people and transitioning to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with 26,000 students started this empowerment of learning from different people and different ways of life. What I know of myself is I really flourish by absorbing myself into things to get a full, appreciated picture. This opportunity is just what I need.
Professors always talk about a cheesy thing called “goal setting,” but it’s pretty beneficial. Here’s mine:
For my classes,
over the nine weeks, I will stay intentional and focused within the classroom on both the content and the teaching style so I can make the most of learning to be effective with my personal growth.
For my internship,
I will devote nine weeks and 20 hours a week to intentionally work on my understanding of the business and their goals, how I can help get them a step closer (however big) to their goals and increase my understanding of how to successfully work with a business that has different cultural norms and a different first language. This will allow me to prepare for graduation and find a job where I can succeed.
For my experience,
knowing I will walk around the city interacting with people and places, I will write a short excerpt in my travel journal each day I spend along this journey, no matter how long or short.
For my Spanish (even though many speak Catalan*),
I desire to confidently hold short conversational interactions with another human on the bus, the person ringing up my groceriesor the person serving me food over the next 12 weeks through personal study, practice and my Spanish class.
*Catalan dates back pretty far and is a mix of many different languages, including Spanish, Italian and French. It’s similar to the English we generally speak that combines words from many different languages to create our own. Pretty neat!
Let's Take a Moment – May 6, 2019
I have so much gratitude! The opportunity to study abroad is a once … or twice … in-a-lifetime experience. Cheesy, but so true. As I prepare and probably
procrastinate, taking the time to thank those who worked with me on writing essays for scholarships and those who provided me with scholarship money to make this big opportunity attainable is a must.
I’ll dive into experiences in future blog posts, but I must lay down a solid foundation. Yes, studying abroad takes lots of prep work. And yes, you guessed it, studying abroad is definitely expensive. However, it is more than attainable and achievable through the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Did I get all the scholarships I applied for to help me fund studying in Barcelona? Not a chance. Am I thankful for what I have received? Absolutely. It will be totally worth it. I hope you’ll see the benefit over the cost.
Studying international business, I foresee more travel in my future. What I hope, especially for those of you not required to study abroad, is you will build up the courage and take the leap to invest in yourself by going abroad. I never heard anyone say they regret a study abroad experience, so prove me wrong; I’ll wait.
I’m still undecided whether this is preparing or procrastinating, but feel free to read through a list of who I have to thank:
Thank you, Mom -
for still accepting me as your child after I told you I decided to accustom myself in a new country for the summer
Thank you, friends -
for your understanding and encouraging nature, working with my chaotic schedule to meet up one last time before I took off
Thank you, College of Business -
for setting up these incredible study abroad trips tailored toward growth and development in my area of study
Thank you, Education Abroad Office -
for sitting down with me, full of excitement, to review essays while reminding me of upcoming deadlines
Thank you, Scholarships and Financial Aid Office -
for answering my emails when I needed help budgeting or turning in information
Thank you, IAU -
for providing me a learning experience I am excited for, confident you will send me home full of new knowledge
Thank you, readers -
for taking a chance to read what I say, in hopes that it brings some sort of value to you
Feel free to live out the fun through my experiences! But, if it’s worth it to you, you’ll make it work. Don’t make excuses, make experiences. And make thank you notes for those who help make your experiences possible.