During the fall of 2018, Jonathan — a Business Administration Major with a concentration in Information Technology — studied at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain.
Hi, my name is Jonathan Sadler and I studied at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid Spain during the Fall of 2018.
I’m one of many people, in the form of emails, newsletters etcetera – whom you may never meet. However, that won’t stop me from trying to convince you to study abroad.
If you found this testimonial, you may have been like me in the winter & spring of 2017/18, busy collecting information on studying abroad, weighing the options, and metaphorically dotting your I’s and checking your T’s – Oh and still working hard towards your degree.
Perhaps you’ve already been outside the country before. Perhaps Raleigh (as it was for me) is the biggest city you’ve lived in, perhaps not. Maybe you grew up in a bigger city or a bigger town.
Either way, my goal is to convince you why you should study abroad like I did.
By now you’ve probably heard or will hear questions such as: How will I afford to study abroad? Where will I live? What are the options? Is it safe?
A little bit about me, I grew up in a medium-sized town in the Raleigh-Durham area. Before I arrived in Madrid on a hot, sweltering day in mid-August, I had never been out of the United States. Yes, I had traveled some to visit family in other parts of the US, but never far from home.
Why did you choose to study abroad?
Fear of Regret.
Before I wrote the three or four (scholarship) essays in early January 2018 I talked to many friends and family about studying abroad. One of my friends was an au pair, another friend I met later studied in Prague. My sister graduated from NC State in the Spring of 2017. When I asked her about studying abroad, she told me one thing “Go for it”. And so, I did. Regardless of where you are in life – Younger, older – it doesn’t matter. Two and a half years later, my older sister is married and has an infant child. One of her biggest regrets? Not studying abroad.
I know one day, I’ll graduate, get married, and have kids of my own. I realized if I had the chance when I was young and had no long-term commitments, I would regret it the rest of my life if I didn’t study abroad.
And so I went.
I wanted to Grow.
“I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t realize it would be this difficult, this early on” – Me
Two days after I arrived in Madrid, alone and with few friends, I found out my Dad would need surgery to pull a quarter-size tumor out of his lymph system. Instant tears and instant fear. The tumor was very close to my Dad’s heart and any deviation would mean instant cardiac arrest and (probable) death of one of the people I always looked to in my life for help. I found out on the morning of August 18th. I flew out on my Dad’s birthday. Thankfully, my Dad’s surgery went well five weeks later and he recovered well enough to run a marathon in March of 2019. I ran it with him.
In business, there’s a term called Opportunity Cost. Basically, it’s the cost of choosing one task instead of another. I felt like the opportunity cost of not studying abroad heavily outweighed the benefits. Did I mention I found a one-way flight for eighteen (US) dollars that took me from Madrid to Vienna?
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
- Remember to breathe.
- A laminated copy of both sides of your passport (If you misplace or lose your passport, this may come in handy)
- Wallet, Phone, Keys, Passport. I kept these with me at all times when I traveled across Europe, always in my front pockets, and checked frequently to ensure they were there.
- Keep a journal or write emails to yourself and make sure they’re dated.
- This will help you remember how you felt / document how you changed during your time abroad.
- Document everything.
- I took between four and six thousand photos during my short eighteen and a half weeks abroad, in addition to dozens of video messages,
- Make a list of the things you want to do and the places you want to visit.
- Even if you don’t accomplish everything on your list, at least you’ll have accomplished a few.
- Know your support group before you go.
- Out of 131 days I spent in Spain, I talked to my family or someone from home at least 126 out of the 131 days I was abroad. It helped me stay close to them and it was nice getting someone to share my experiences with as they happened.
- Collect something.
- I collected refrigerator magnets from each country or city I visited, and it was cool to show them to my friends & family when I got back.
Anything else we should know about your experience?
Over the course of 18.5 weeks, lasting from August 15th (the day I left for Madrid) until December 24th (the day I arrived home) I visited 13 countries, logged thousands of miles, and met dozens of new friends along the way.
Within Europe, I visited as far west as Cliffs of Moher, in Ireland, and as far east as Kyiv, Ukraine (Mom and Dad didn’t like that I visited while the rest of Ukraine was under martial law)
Outside of Europe, I visited as far south as Tangier, Morocco, and as far east as Jerusalem, Israel.
I took solo trips to Rome, Italy and Vienna, Austria. I also visited San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Barcelona, Spain – Solo.
I tried to invite friends I had met to come with me, but I realized it was easier traveling on my own.
And so I went.
This is it. You’ve made it. My Closing. My last chance to convince you.
At NC State our motto is “Think and Do the Extraordinary”.
There’s one thing I didn’t tell you.
I’m a transfer student – I got my associate’s degree in the summer of 2017 and transferred two and a half weeks later. I don’t remember the motto my community college had (if it had one at all). My personal motto for two years was “Get my associate’s degree in two years and get on with my life”.
I didn’t start at NC State as a freshman, but I did have enough free electives, a vivacious curiosity, and a desire to go on my own and Think and Do the Extraordinary.
Even if it’s for a few weeks (Alternative Spring Break), during the summer (what else are you going to do in Raleigh), or during the semester (like me), NC State and Poole College of Management have some incredible opportunities.
I hope some of my stories helped you make the decision to study abroad. To make memories. To be unafraid. To go your own. To make your own memories.
I’m one of many strangers whom you may never meet, but it worked out well for me, and I know it can work out well for you too.
Thanks for reading.