Meet Julie VanVoorhis

Program and Location:

Spring, ISA Barcelona; Barcelona, Spain

Why did you choose to study abroad?

My major requires me to study abroad, which was the perfect excuse. I love to travel, which is why I’m majoring in international studies. I wanted the experience of living in another country for an extended time, which is wholly different than visiting for a weekend. I also wanted to immerse myself in the Spanish language. I picked Barcelona because it is an international city and I wanted to be at an intersection of cultures.

What did you learn about yourself?

I had to learn to be more comfortable being social and spending time alone. I have been secure in my friend groups since middle school practically. This was the first time that I was ever put in a new environment and had to force myself to make new friends. I had to learn to make myself comfortable in a foreign space with strangers and learn how to be alone as well. I used to be fairly emotionally dependent and now I feel comfortable traveling by myself and making friends on my journey.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

The best parts were most definitely the program-led trips. I loved that the activities were seamlessly planned and we managed to see all of the important parts of a city, while still getting ample free time. The stress of scheduling was relieved and we had the chance to make friends with other students and enjoy each other’s company. Some of my best friends from study abroad are people that I met and spent time with on program-led trips.

What advice do you have to future study abroad students?

You should have a lot of money saved up so you can really enjoy yourself and travel without stress. A few thousand dollars is a good amount to bring to Europe so that you can go to a few different cities and enjoy your home city! It sounds like a lot, but this is the cheapest you will ever be able to travel in your life and it is worth it. My other advice, maybe even more important, is to spend time getting to know where you live. Speak the language and see all of the attractions. Find out where the locals spend their time. I saw so many students travel every weekend and never really enjoy Barcelona. It was sad to me. I did something in Barcelona almost every week and returned to some places again and again. Even now that I am home, I am finding out about places in Barcelona I’d like to see.

How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?

My classes were fantastic. My professors were so knowledgeable. Their different perspectives were so interesting; many of them said that they teach study abroad students because they are continually surprised by our contrasting perspectives. One of my classes took field trips around the city to different museums and churches. Some of the places we visited I never would have known about. It was interesting to hear about these places from a professor that was local, teaching me much more than I would have if I visited alone.

Would you do it again?

Before I even left for study abroad, I was trying to figure out how to do it again! I hope to do a summer program before I graduate.