My name is Efstathia Desimone and I am a graduating Junior, and psychology major at Syracuse University. During fall 2022, I had the incredible opportunity of attending Syracuse’s Abroad program in Madrid, Spain (Syracuse Madrid). The primary reason I chose Spain is because of what I had heard of Spanish culture prior. Spain’s history and the impact it has had on the lifestyle of Spaniards today was something that I knew I had to experience in person – and I was not disappointed. Spanish culture was exactly what I had expected it would be like. The routine and pace of living was very slow and relaxed just as I had hoped, and the people were incredibly welcoming and friendly.
Having never taken Spanish before, I knew navigating Spain would be a bit scary getting into. To my advantage, student must enroll in a Spanish course while abroad! Introduction to Spanish introduced me to the basics of the Spanish language, while other courses such as Cross-Cultural Psychology and Sexuality in Spain gave me more insight on Spanish culture and history.
Throughout the academic semester, I was quite involved with student activities facilitated by the center. Firstly, I had the honor to work with incredible staff through my work-study position, where I was able to assist in the student life and communication department. Secondly, I was one of the biggest fans of the center’s MadWorld program! MadWorld offered various cultural events throughout the semester which encouraged the student immersion in Spanish culture. The events included daytrips to locations near Madrid, yoga classes, cooking classes and more!
Lastly, I was member of Syracuse Madrid’s Diversity, Inclusion Student Committee (D.I.S.C.). D.I.S.C. is a student run group, dedicated to making all Syracuse and visiting students in the Syracuse Program feel welcomed, supported, and included during their time abroad. As an organization, we placed strong emphasis on creating resources to support students who identify with marginalized or historically underrepresented groups. Overall, participating in university-ran activities, allowed to me to integrate better into the abroad program and transition smoothly into my academic semester.
A once in a lifetime opportunity is offered to the Madrid Abroad students and that is: the Marine Ecology Seminar! I can say with ease, that the 10 days of which it consisted of, were the most adventurous and spontaneous days of my life thus far. Not only was it a great way to meet the students that would be with me in Madrid, but we also had the opportunity of exploring southern Spain. After hiking in Puerto de Javea, snorkeling in Tabarca, kayaking in Xabia and then scuba diving in Cabo De Palos, I knew that there would be a great semester awaiting for us!
The greatest highlight of my time abroad, was hands down the friends I met and connections I made. Going abroad alone, was certainly the scariest factor of my experience. Despite my concerns, I was so relieved to know that most of the student in my program were in the same situation as me; alone and eager to explore Spain! With that being said, during my semester in Madrid, I met some of my closest friends today. Despite, all challenges and fear I might have faced, exploring Spain became the most educational experience of my life!