«It has been about 15 years since I studied abroad in Bilbao and the effects of that trip still echo throughout my life. When I first decided to study abroad, I had my heart set on Florence, Italy. I had friends that would be there, and I thought for my first time away from home, I would be most comfortable surrounding myself with familiar faces. After Fordham University told me that Florence, and studying abroad in general, was not an option due to my GPA, I was taken aback. However, I decided that my University would not stop me from partaking in what should be one of the most exciting times of my life. I told them that I would study abroad, and after weeks of back and forth, they said that their sister school in Bilbao, Spain, would accept me. I promptly Googled «Where is Bilbao, Spain» but it didn’t matter – I was going to be a student at the University of Deusto!
I arrived in Bilbao in early January 2006 with an open mind, a lot of nerves, and sub-par Spanish skills. Administrators from the University of Deusto CIDE greeted me at the airport and made the first steps in this foreign land welcoming. Their enthusiasm and insight were appreciated as I got acquainted with the coursework, the city, the transportation system, and the beautiful University. The classes were expectedly challenging, but I always had a classmate to help me through. By the end of my stay, I am happy to say my Spanish skills were markedly better, and I was much more confident speaking the language.
During the program, I traveled to so many fabulous places. As a class, we toured locales across Spain on frequent field trips, learning about the different cultures and cities’ social and commercial histories. One of my favorite class trips was to Hondarribia. The homes and businesses in the fishermen’s quarter are unique and colorful, and the trees were unlike anything I have ever seen.
However, I can say two obvious things have had the most impact on me, both in 2006 and still today – those are the people I met and the empathy I learned.
I met some of my best friends in Bilbao. They helped me get through classes, traveled with me across Europe, made me feel welcomed in a foreign city, and helped me in my personal and professional growth. Almost 15 years later, we still speak (practically daily), go on vacation together, confide in each other, and often reminisce about our time in the North of Spain! It has been a blessing to see everyone grow up to be the person they are today, and I am excited for what is to come.
In addition to my friends, Bilbao nurtured me to be a more empathetic person. In 2006 when I stepped off that plane, I was marching into the unknown. I had to experience all these different cultures, in unfamiliar languages, with people from different walks of life. I was able to approach everything like it was the first time because nothing was familiar. My eyes were always open, trying to understand cultures, how people do things, and their relative experiences. By being out of my comfort zone and experiencing new things, I could see the world in ways that I would have never been able to if I were in Florence with my friends from home. Today, I still approach every business and life situation with the same perspective. How are people thinking? What are they feeling? How can I understand their perspective? All of this has made me into a better businesswoman, partner, friend, and world-traveler.
Without hesitation, I can say that my time in Bilbao was the most transformative time of my life.»