Indiana University Overseas Study

Katie Bosler

Those who live outside of Spain tend to think the word Barca (pronounced barce-uh) is an abbreviation for the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona. For those of us studying here, it became clear very quickly that Barca was not a nickname for the city, but for its world-class fútbol (European soccer) club, FC Barcelona.

If you ask the fans here, following FC Barcelona is similar to practicing a religion. Locals who do not support them are basically shunned-it’s that serious. These Spaniards eat, sleep, and breathe fútbol. On match day you will find 99,000 rabid fans watching the game live at the incredible Camp Nou stadium. The arena is the largest in Europe. Those unable to secure a ticket view the game at a bar with friends or watching at home glued to the TV with family.

Camp Nou

The biggest fútbol stadium in Europe, Camp Nou

FC Barcelona’s motto is “mes que un club” (more than just a club.) It represents something bigger than athletics – it represents Catalan independence. Barcelona is one of the four coastal regions that make up Catalunya, the Catalan nation that has struggled to find independence from the rest of Spain for years. From the 1920’s under Miguel Primo de Rivera’s rule to the severe fascist ruling of dictator Franco, the Catalan culture and specifically its team, Barca, have been severally oppressed.

After Spain’s switch to democracy, Barca has grown to represent not only Catalan independence, but important life values ​​as well. These five key values include ​​Respect, Effort, Teamwork, Humility, and Ambition. Barca and its fans take pride in the fact that the way they play fútbol is not only inspiring the world in the athletic sense but morally as well.

Barca can credit its amazing history of feats on the field to its long list of world-class players. The current stars are Lionel Messi, Louis Suarez, Neymar Jr. and Gerard Pique, to name a few. Messi, 34, has been charted as the best player in the world for quite some time. To Barca fans, Messi is a god, and he is the key component of the on and off field success of Barca’s current team.

Lionel Messi

Barca’s superstar forward, Lionel Messi

Venturing into Camp Nou for the first time was a life changing experience. I thought I was prepared for the intense atmosphere and the insane fans, but the game and the venue itself had no comparison to American football or basketball on any level. I got to my seat an hour before kickoff, and the cheering and drums heard from all sections of the stadium had already started- they would not stop until the last second ticked off of the scoreboard.


Rowdy crowd

The rowdiest cheering section, right behind Barca’s goal

After attending a Barca match, it’s a bit funny to think about how sports fans in the US refer to themselves as dedicated or obsessed. Merely spending a week in Europe would be enough to realize that our fan followings are far too limited to compete with the addiction that fútbol is here. If we want to consider ourselves avid fans, we need to take some advice from the fans of FC Barcelona.

My roommate and I at the game

My roommate, Megan & I at the Barca vs. Levante game

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Sarah Whaley

I am in love with Australia: the people, the weather, the places and everything in between. Though only a week has passed since my arrival, I already see myself returning. And every time someone mentions I only have 5 months left, I cringe. While I love my friends and family back home, I have yet to feel homesick once. It’s a bit overwhelming trying to satisfyingly summarize this past week of sunny days, but I will do my best by breaking it down to the simplest reasons Australia has taken my heart captive (insert “country colonized by convicts” joke here).

Reason #1: The People

I was told before boarding my first plane I was headed to the land of some of the kindest people in the world. While the thought was comforting, it wasn’t reality until my second plane hit the pavement in Melbourne. While waiting for my connecting flight to Adelaide, I met some native Adelaidians who eagerly shared everything I should do and see in the city. Then on the flight I sat next to an older couple who adopted me for a couple of hours and helped me into the airport, where I was greeted by two peers from St Mark’s College, the residential college I am staying at throughout my exchange program. A fro co (frozen Coke) from Macca’s (McDonald’s) and a night of games later, I had made my first friends. No need to have been so worried.

Even those I would not necessarily consider friends, such as the lady who set me up with a Westpac bank account, are unforgivably friendly. (“Unforgivably” because it’s nearly impossible to return their favors.) They say the Midwest is one of the friendliest parts of America, but we have nothing on the Aussies. They don’t just point you to where you need to go when you ask for directions, they walk you there. Now I think about it, I have yet to see an Aussie mad (except in jest). And that’s another thing. They all have a brilliant sense of humor and a resilience you wouldn’t expect in a county supposedly always trying to kill you with wildlife and riptides.

Not only are the locals amazing and full of stories, but being an international student has thrown me into a mix of people from all corners of the world. My tightest group of friends here met during international orientation week by a series of introductions to friends of friends. Now I’m regularly hanging out with friends from Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Chile, France, Lebanon and Egypt. Perhaps our similar situation of being students in a new country drove us together so quickly, but I already wouldn’t trade a single one of them for the world. Plans are already being made for traveling together and making home visits once the semester is over.

my international friends

Some international friends and I.

Reason #2: The Weather

If the people weren’t enough to get me out of bed with a smile every morning, the weather would be my motivation. Though a couple of days have been incredibly hot (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), I am loath to complain. Especially since my friends and family back home have been sending me shots of snow. I do not miss it and if I had a choice I would never return to it. My body was built for warmth and my mood was designed for sunshine. Here, I have plenty of both. They weren’t kidding when they said Adelaide is the driest Australian city either. The other day it rained for about five seconds. Though I’ve been told Adelaide can get cool in the winter, I am certain I will be the American out and about in short sleeves. I am also certain the Aussies will still be wearing thongs (flip-flops).

Adelaide from the air

Adelaide from the air.

Reason #3: The Places

This section is better told in pictures than in words:

My first impression of my new home was my room at St Mark’s. A queen size bed, two-story tall ceilings and a fireplace were waiting for me. The rest of the residential campus is beautiful too: the lawns are large, the buildings are old and architecturally interesting and the flora are labeled in case you’re interested in knowing their names.

my spacious living quarters

My spacious living quarters.

I didn’t get to see the city until the first day, but as cliché as it sounds the first glimpse took my breath away. Though the city of Adelaide is large and reasonably busy, the streets and parks are also large which helps the whole place breathe. The public transportation is easy, and from my location nearly everything is within walking distance. The walks are not dull either, but colored by the River Torrens, the numerous sculptures that hint at the artistic bent of the city and the birds (only found in zoos at home).

first glimpse of the city

First glimpse of the city.

If the city was breathtaking it was nothing compared to the campus of Uni (University of Adelaide). IU is comparably beautiful, but not quite as full of waterfalls and bridges covered in locks left by hopeful lovers. It is unreal thinking I will be taking classes there and eating lunch on the lawns in a week.

enjoying green space

Enjoying the campus green spaces.

One of the seasonal highlights here is the Adelaide Fringe and the accompanying Garden of Unearthly Delights. The festival celebrates non-traditional arts, and the Garden is full of food and drink vendors and shows. I even braved one of the pop-up fair rides with a little bit of cider courage, then spent the rest of the night laughing with my international friends as we took up three benches under the light-strung trees.

Garden of Unearthly Delights

The Garden of Unearthly Delights.

Before I left for Australia, I swore I wasn’t going to touch the water. Instead I ate my words the third day and dove into the Gulf St Vincent off of Glenelg Beach. The salt stung my eyes only at first and the water was pleasant, but everyone kept looking out for sharks. Adelaide is fairly safe from shark-traffic compared to Sydney or Melbourne, but even a dolphin fin would have had us out of the water in seconds.

Glenelg Beach at sunset

Glenelg Beach at sunset.

During a break in the international orientation schedule, a few friends and I grabbed our cameras and headed to the Botanic Gardens of South Australia. A better decision has never been made. But you’ll have to see for yourself.

Flower at botanical gardens.

A small taste of the beauty.

This is my walk to and from Uni every day. Enough said.

River Torrens

Walk along the River Torrens.

Reason #4: Everything in Between

By now I hope it’s understood why I never want to leave. But just in case someone is in need of a few more reasons: Tim Tams, Chupa Chups lollipops, the barby (barbecue), field trips to Victor Harbor, the sincerity of “no worries, mate” and this photo.

Me with a kangaroo

Kangaroo selfie.

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Carla Sraders

Four years ago, when my sister was studying abroad in Spain, my family flew 4,000 miles across the Atlantic to visit her in Toledo. While I was very excited to see my sister, there were obviously a ton of other things I wanted to see, eat, watch, and experience during my trip. Above the Alcázar, Parc Güell, el Prado, and Sagrada Familia… I wanted to go to a Real Madrid game. Having played soccer almost all of my life, I’ve always enjoyed watching it. So when my dad and I found out there was a Real Madrid home game during our time in Spain, we immediately bought tickets.

After a delayed flight, lost luggage, and a lot of confusion getting to Madrid, we mixed up the days of the game. Sitting in our hotel room on Saturday night, we checked to make sure we were ready for the game we thought kicked off Sunday at 6 pm. Dumbfounded, we realized the game was actually happening at that moment. My dad, little brother, and I ran out of the hotel, on the metro, and onward towards Santiago Bernabéu. Getting into the stadium around the 90th minute, everyone was leaving as we finally arrived. Not only did we lose over 200 euros and the chance to see a game, but Real Madrid had lost the game 1-0 – their first lost at home during 2011.

Now, 4 years later, I’m studying abroad in a city less than 3 hours away from Madrid via AVE train. I knew I’d have to return to Santiago Bernabéu before I came back to the United States. I was finally going to see a Real Madrid game.

outside Santiago Bernabéu

Outside of Santiago Bernabéu on Valentine’s Day, 2015.

While I’ve been fortunate enough to attend NBA, MLB, and NFL games in my life, I’ve never had an experience quite like the game in Madrid. The entire 81,000 person stadium was electric. While my friends and I sat in the nosebleeds at the very top of the stadium, there wasn’t a single person around us that wasn’t completely invested in the game. Every free kick from Ronaldo, breakaway from Gareth Bale, and miraculous save from Casillias left the entire stadium breathless.

In Madrid for three days I was able to go back and see the museums, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, and many other touristy things, but I don’t think many other experiences abroad will compare to the Real Madrid game. You’re not only sight-seeing or looking at the culture from afar, you’re actually part of it.

Here’s a video of my time spent in Madrid. (Pretty happy to say I caught Isco’s goal on camera!)

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Erik Trautman

Two weeks after returning to Italy, I now know what it is to be an American – well, what it is to be an American through European eyes. Take any 90’s high school movie and that pretty much sums it up: jocks, cheerleaders, lockers, and yellow school buses. They told me I talk like people in movies and they asked if spring break was like the movie. I still haven’t seen “Spring Breakers” but I imagine my road trip stories were a bit toned down compared to James Franco with corn rolls and grills.

I later found myself trying to explain Groundhog’s day, which I realized I knew nothing about until now: the first Groundhog’s day was in 1887, it takes place in Punxsutawney, PA, the marmot’s name is Phil, and he has an 80% accuracy rating according to accuweather. Unfortunately, the large ground squirrel (yes, I also did research on the groundhog) saw his shadow this year, as he always seems to do, however, this got me wondering how far his jurisdiction extends. Senseless daydreams aside, I’ve been preoccupied with this image of American identity. At first it was just fun listening to Italians pronounce Punxsutawney but what I didn’t expect was to learn about where I come from while being 5,000 miles away. This discovery naturally came to a climax during this year’s Super Bowl.

The plan was for Doritos, Mountain Dew, buffalo chicken wings and Budweiser, the commercialized image of an American Super bowl party. Sunday, however, isn’t the best day to do shopping in Italy. Many of the markets are closed leaving the open ones quite packed, and it’s nearly impossible to find buffalo sauce or sour cream. I tossed what I could find on the sporadic shelves at the local Pam into the hand-pulled cart: Pringles, Philadelphia cream cheese, hot dogs, beef, corn, eggs, potatoes, and beans. I proceeded to make chili, pigs in a blanket, potato skins, and deviled eggs. Theò, my friend who agreed to host the party, made a chicken curry. After eating chili, curry, and cupcakes, no one could eat a bite more, and I was left in the kitchen with a basket full of hard-boiled eggs (although I admit I did misplace the mayonnaise).

The game started around midnight due to the time difference and continued till almost four in the morning. We watched the extravagant opening ceremonies, tried our best to explain the game to the inquisitive Europeans, awed at the halftime show, and laughed shamefully at some of the commercials. So is this what defines America: Chevy trucks, Groundhog’s day, Pringles, Katy Perry, and overgrown men bashing into each other while Nationwide tries to scare you into buying insurance? No, America is a cultural empire that I never saw until now, from across the ocean. It’s a fantastic ideal of prosperity, grandness, and freedom depicted that electric night in a blur of red, white, and blue jerseys, flags waving the words “Seattle Seahawks,” Katy Perry on a beach surrounded by dancing sharks, fireworks, the grand canyon, and witty ads. I wont talk about the results of that game but after watching it, I’m more comfortable talking about something far grander, America. Therefore, the Italian word for the day is “paese” or country.

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Katie Bosler

It’s been just over two weeks here in Barcelona, Spain and I am pleasantly surprised to say it feels like I’ve lived here for months. While I have had to make some big adjustments to better adapt to this Spanish (or should I say Catalan) culture, everyday I’m surprised at the amount of similarities I find that remind me of my lifestyle back home. Coming from a suburban Indiana neighborhood, this move to a busy city street bustling with people (and dogs!) 24/7 has been exciting, different, and LOUD, to say the least. The street we live on is called Plaça de Joaquim Folguera (it took the full two weeks to pronounce it correctly), and our neighborhood area is known as El Putxet (a Catalan name). El Putxet is just twenty minutes away from the 1,680 foot mountain, Tibidabo, and from our street we can see the castle atop the mountain, which is best illuminated at night.

Sidenote: Catalan refers to the independent region of Spain that Barcelona, Geida, Lleida, and Tarragona make up. These four cities refer to themselves as Catalonians, speak Catalan alongside Spanish, and have immense pride in their independence from the other regions of Spain.

Plaça de Joaquim Folguera

Plaça de Joaquim Folguera

Tibidabo castle

Tibidabo – look closely and you can see the castle on top

Besides getting lost post-taxi drop off fresh from the airport and lugging our four 50+ pound suitcases uphill for 45 minutes (we were two minutes away from home), my roommates & I have been amazed at the ease that we have been able to communicate and do things here. Our ‘school’ IES (it looks just like every other sky-high building on the street) is located in a sprawling plaza that acts as a central location for all things in Barcelona, Plaça de Catalunya. To try to explain the vast entity that Plaça Catalunya is, I would say that “New York City on steroids” is the best description. To get here, we take the subway right outside our apartment and then have about a ten minute walk to our school building from the metro stop. When we aren’t in class, Plaça Catalunya gives us endless shopping and dining opportunities as well as all kinds of people watching, something extremely entertaining to do here when have a break between classes.

With two weeks in, I’m already certain that my study abroad experience will be unlike most others. This is due to the fact that there are not only ten, 20, or 30 other IU students here alongside me, but over 50, and that is just in my specific program. There are at least three other programs with IU students here as well. Somehow, I was oblivious to the fact that a mass group of fellow Hoosier students would be joining me. It wasn’t until the first day of class that I began to realize having at least five other IU kids in each of my classes would be a normal thing. At first, I panicked and had a negative attitude about being surrounded by so many semi-familiar faces. However, after a few days I realized that I only knew a select few of the 50+. As I keep meeting more and more of these fellow Hoosiers, I’m getting extremely excited by the fact that not only will we be making memories in Barcelona this semester, but our journey together will continue on to our senior year in Bloomington as well.

Barcelona from above

Barcelona from a birds-eye view

This coming weekend will be our first trip to Madrid. My roommates and I are very eager to explore Spain’s biggest city and see how it compares to Barcelona, the second largest. We will be traveling in a group of about 200 other students in the IES program. We will be going on a guided ‘tapas tour’, where we will sample different tapas, or appetizers, which are an integral part of daily Spanish cuisine. We will also be touring the Las Ventas bullring, one of the most famous bull fighting arenas in the world, known as the mecca of bull fighting.

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Sarah Whaley

Almost all my friends are gone. They are back to school, back at work, or already on their overseas adventures. I am home: washing dishes, working Monday through Thursday to pass the time, and scribbling tentative packing lists. And I still have a couple of weeks to go.

I don’t think I have ever experienced such a strange time in my life. I know I’m about to embark on a life-changing adventure, but I’m still here. It’s perplexing and I feel as if, in a way, I’m not entirely in existence anywhere. Half of my self is in Indiana, avoiding packing out of fear doing so will make my trip nonfiction. (Seriously, all I’ve done towards packing is put my suitcases in the hallway.) The other half of my self is already 10,000 air miles away in Adelaide, battling giant spiders and sea snakes. A bit dramatic, but if recent news is anything to judge by, my brain is doing me a favor by preparing for war.

Luggage & travel guide

My meager attempt at packing.

At first, the worst part about being in this antechamber of adventure (waiting room, but I like the way “antechamber of adventure” sounds like it could be the eighth Harry Potter book) was that my friends are no longer a campus walk away. But now I’ve reconnected with old friends at home and I’m spending almost every weekend traveling the state to see the rest. The worst part of waiting now is how my trip to Australia is all anyone wants to talk to me about. And I can’t even count the number of times the same people have asked me when I leave. I know they’re not anxious to be rid of me, but on darker days my mind sometimes goes there.

The first dream I had about Australia was a couple of months back. In the dream, I couldn’t make any new friends at University of Adelaide, and when I came back all my friends here had forgotten about me. The friends I told about the dream laughed at me to say, “As if that would ever happen.” But for as much as I laughed at myself in front of them, it’s still a legitimate fear. As legitimate as my fear of giant spiders and sea snakes.

Though I’m still struggling to feel fully in existence anywhere, my hope has been replenished thanks of one of my favorite movies, The Princess Diaries. Specifically, I’m given hope by the words of Mia’s father: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”

Traveling literally halfway around the world alone for the first time is incredibly terrifying. But while I’m clinging to these next couple weeks at home, I’m also anxious to move out of the waiting room and into my adventure. Fears of being friendless or bitten by animals aside, I could not be more excited. Not only will my overseas study give me the opportunity to take interesting classes, live within a different culture, and make new friends, but it will give me the opportunity to really get to know myself. After all, when all that you know is left behind, all that is left is you. I am looking forward to meeting myself in Australia.

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Carla Sraders

Having been in Seville for over a week now, I’ve become semi-adjusted to the time change (jet lag for the first three days frequently kept me up until 6 am Spanish local time), the differences in Spanish lifestyle (waiting until 10 pm for dinner doesn’t seem totally absurd any more), and have some of an idea about my surroundings/location within Seville. Although it’s taken about a week, I finally feel comfortable and settled into more of a routine. However, by no means would I say that I’m completely adjusted to life here in Seville. There are still many social norms, customs, and countless places within the city that I’m just starting to become familiar with. The most difficult thing, which I think will take me the entire semester to become more comfortable and familiar with, is the language difference.

Having studied Spanish for over nine years, I feel pretty confident in my language comprehension and knowledge of the vocabulary. Still, I have no doubt that there will always be room for me to improve. During class this past week, one of our professors, who has lived in Seville for over 15 years, said that native Spanish speakers still notice a difference in her American accent. Almost 20 years immersed in the Spanish culture and people are still able to tell that she’s not a native speaker. Because I will only be in Spain for about 4 months (much less time than my professor), I realize that speaking perfect Spanish will not be possible. I don’t think studying abroad is supposed to make me fluent in Spanish. Studying abroad will make me more competent and confident in speaking a language foreign to my own. While obviously becoming fluent would be ideal, it’s not a realistic goal to set for myself during my short semester abroad. Being able to confidently speak a language in which I’m not fluent, in my opinion, is a much more valuable skill.

Seville Street

Shops, streets and language in Seville differ greatly from those in the United States.

Getting off the plane in Seville, I was immediately surrounded by the Spanish language. My taxi driver, my orientation leader, my professors – they were all speaking to me in Spanish. Having travelled through various cities for over 24 hours, I was exhausted and disoriented, being plunged so quickly into such an unfamiliar culture. However, after two days in Seville, all of my friends and I already recognized the progress we had made both understanding and speaking Spanish.  (Immersion is the way to go!)

While I may not come back to the United States in 4 months speaking perfect Spanish, I think I will have gained confidence in the fact that I can speak Spanish (no matter if it’s perfect or not). My American accent will always be obvious – no matter how excellent my grammatical construction or extensive vocabulary. However, I think being able to have the confidence to speak Spanish, to converse and connect with people, will create a better experience. I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand all the differences with ser/estar and when I’m talking too fast I probably mix up preterite and imperfect constantly. The more time I spend in Seville I hope to improve these things, but I’ve also realized that it’s not essential for me to speak perfect Spanish to have a conversation with someone in the dining hall or talk to the waiter at a tapas bar. Simply having the confidence to speak Spanish, despite my difficulties, seems to me like the best way to become comfortable and immersed in Seville.

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