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Alyssa Ruiz

Alyssa — a Business Administration with a concentration in Supply Chain and a Minor in Spanish — studied at Universiad Pontificia Comillas ICADE in Madrid, Spain.

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because I have always loved traveling and learning about different cultures. I wanted the opportunity to experience a new culture by living in it and fully immersing myself in it. It broadens your perspective of the world and shows you what life is like in places outside the US. I also was interested in seeing how my business courses were taught abroad, I wanted the opportunity to learn how business is conducted in other countries. Learning Spanish is important to me, so I wanted to study in a place where I could practice it and wanted to take the final course for my minor in a place that speaks Spanish.

What courses did you take abroad and how did the academics compare to your on-campus experience at NC State? 

I took Human Resources, Operations Management, Consumer Behavior, and a class taught in Spanish called Poder e Imagen, Los Siglos de Oro: La Colección Real en el Museo del Prado.

The teaching style in Madrid is very different than in the US. I was surprised when I found out they did not use textbooks in any of the classes. The teacher provided all the necessary information on PowerPoint presentations or in handouts they gave us. In the US, we need books for almost every class. Another difference is that at NC State, we have lectures where we learn the material, then we have homework assignments, sometimes have a discussion about the material, then we are tested on it. Classes have several homework, quiz and test grades in addition to attendance/participation and maybe projects. However, in Madrid, there were no quizzes and very few tests. The professor gave a short lecture and we always had a class discussion about the material we just learned. We also had more projects than tests. The tests (if any) were very heavily weighted as are the projects. The final exam for most classes is often worth over 50% of your grade. Overall, the teaching style in Madrid is much more conversational with a focus on applying the knowledge to projects, whereas at NC State, it is more lectures with several assessments throughout the semester to test our understanding.

What advice do you have for future study abroad students?

I would tell future study abroad students to make the most of their experience and to take every opportunity that comes their way. Spend time getting to know your host country. Go see the main tourist attractions once, but spend most of your time doing things and going places the locals go. Immerse yourself fully into the culture by eating traditional food, exploring the whole city, adapting to their lifestyle, and by practicing their language. I would also recommend traveling to other places with your friends. It is easy to do and is more affordable than in the US. Make sure to take pictures of everything. When I look back at my pictures, I don’t just remember the place, but I also remember what I saw and the amazing things I did there. The experiences I had with my friends while studying abroad are truly the best times I have had so far. It was an incredible time in my life that I will never forget.

What is one of your favorite memories or experiences from studying abroad?

One of my favorite memories of studying abroad was when Madrid was celebrating dos de mayo. They spend the whole week before this day celebrating. The streets in a neighborhood called Malasaña are shut down and are filled with people. There are DJs on every street and every plaza has a stage set up for nightly performances. The streets are decorated and it is a huge party. The people were enjoying their time with friends and family walking through the crowded streets and stopping at the DJs to dance and at restaurants to eat. The celebration started in the early afternoon and continued into the late night. I was shocked at the amount of people and was even more shocked to see the amount of DJs that lined the streets. The performers at night were local artists. Bands walked through the streets playing the drums and people followed them to dance. Everyone was living in the moment and truly enjoying themselves and the time they were spending with their friends and family.