Meet Natalie Perkins

Program and Location:

Fall, IES Abroad Barcelona; Barcelona, Spain

Major/Minor:

Horticultural Science- Landscape Design

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad for a semester, because my mom studied abroad when she was in college and it gave her the opportunity to become bilingual. Also, I wanted to learn about other cultures and I knew that I would have to stay for more than a few weeks in order to become familiar with the people and language. Additionally, I wanted to earn credits towards graduation at the same time as traveling.

What did you learn about yourself?

I became much more confident. From day one, I quickly learned to use public transportation on my own in a foreign city with over a million people, where Catalan and Spanish are the primary languages. I also became more organized, because I knew I had to complete my homework assignments during the week so that I could travel to other European countries on the weekends, so I could make the most of the five months I was there.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

Living with a host family allowed me to understand how Catalans live day to day. I was able to begin my mornings sharing breakfast and conversation with my host mom.

What advice do you have to future study abroad students?

Before you commit to a program, think about what your goals are for studying abroad. Always be open-minded, because your time there will be a lot different than you expect. Recognize that some days will be difficult and you will miss your friends and family, but they will be home waiting for you when you return! So enjoy your time of independence and get out and see as much as you can while you are there.

How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?

Through study abroad, I have become more confident, independent, and prepared for unfamiliar circumstances. For example, when I arrived early to my program, I decided not to purchase a data plan, because I wanted to stay away from technology for as long as possible in order to improve my communication skills. Not using my phone brought me many small challenges (such as learning how to use public transportation without Google Maps), which helped me become comfortable with traveling without using my phone. Since I am majoring in Horticulture, while abroad, I was able to visit many natural parks and learn about the Mediterranean flora, farming practices, and sustainability plans. This trip enriched my knowledge in horticulture around the world.

Were you surprised by anything during your time abroad?

I was surprised that many students who studied abroad gave up on learning a new language very early in the program. From this experience, I learned to be self sufficient in practicing Spanish, because I was around other Americans in my program and it would have been easy to speak English with them all the time.

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 abroad were smaller and filled with students from different schools around the United States, compared to the larger NC State classrooms. I was lucky, because the classes I took included field trips to art museums, outdoor markets, and natural parks. One particular field trip I appreciated was the Ebro Delta with my Mediterranean Environment class where we visited the river to learn about local flora, fauna, and rice cultivation. All of my classes, especially Landscape and Architecture of Barcelona, Spanish Music, and Mediterranean Environment, brought me outside the classroom to learn more than I would have by reading a textbook.

Would you do it again?

Yes, I would love to study abroad again!