My name is Aanu Jibodu and I am a rising senior at Rice, studying Statistics and Environmental Engineering. This past semester (Spring 2020), I had the amazing opportunity to spend my semester abroad in Madrid, Spain through the IES Madrid - Engineering and Math program. I’ve always had a love for the Spanish language and have known since freshman year that I’ve wanted to spend part of my college career in a Spanish speaking country. When I learned that I would be able to fit studying abroad into my college curriculum, despite being an engineering student with a busy schedule, I leaped at the opportunity and have not looked back.
The few months I spent in Madrid were times that I will never forget. I went into the semester expecting to learn a little Spanish culture and a lot of Spanish language. Never did I expect to learn so much about myself. (If studying abroad in any country will push you, studying abroad in a country with a native language you are unfamiliar with will give you a hearty shove.) During my time abroad, every day presented new and unique learning experiences, from dinner etiquette with my host family to learning how to maintain balance and grace while standing with no handrail on a packed METRO. Everyday, I was challenged to stretch beyond my comfort zone. And everyday, with the help of the amazing friends I was making, IES program staff, and countless patient Madrillenos, I was learning and growing in ways I had never anticipated.
I had a truly amazing time abroad and can honestly say that the 8ish weeks I spent in Spain were the best of my life (so far). I’ve made lifelong friends from all over the world. I’ve gotten to press my hands against ancient European relics from 800 years ago. I’ve learned not only Spanish, but a little Dutch and a teeny bit of Basque. I’ve eaten squid, blood sausage, my host mom’s famous albondigas, and a lot of bread. I’ve had so many beautiful experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
If you’re considering studying abroad, my advice is to absolutely do it. Acknowledge the fears you have and do it anyway. It will be a beautiful and formative experience that you will fondly look back on for the rest of your life. And in the 0.0001% chance that it’s not, well, at least you’ll know. One of my favorite quotes is “We only regret the chances we do not take.” So take the chance, friend. Go abroad.