#StudyAbroadBecause it changes the way you see the world

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Mar 13, 2015 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Hannah Olevson is a senior studying Marketing, Communication, and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. She considers Sevilla, Spain her second home, and continually misses the friendly natured Spaniards and scent of freshly squished oranges. As it stands, her mission in life is to spread jokes, collect postcards, discover new coffee shops, and grab adventure wherever it may land with those around her.

 

Hannah Olevson. #StudyAbroadBecause it changes the way you see the world

 

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?

I chose to study abroad because my aunt studied abroad twice in college and I remember looking at her photos when I was around the age of 12 thinking that I, too, was going to be world traveler. Since I have a Spanish minor, it only made sense to go to a Spanish speaking country, which left Latin America and Spain. I chose Spain because I had a number of other friends who were studying in various places in Europe at the same time and I wanted to visit my extended family in Belgium. I ended up in Seville, Spain due to the rich culture, and, of course, the sunny weather.

 

Hannah Olevson. #StudyAbroadBecause it changes the way you see the world

 

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?

I studied abroad with API and my experience was incredible. In Sevilla I lived with a host family, took Spanish and English classes, and enjoyed many afternoons wandering the quaint streets. I had my fair share of bad days and struggles, but overall it was an incredible experience that I encourage everyone to have.

A hidden treasure I found in Sevilla were convent sweets - they are exact what they sound like. They are desserts (cookies, truffles, cakes, etc.) that are made by nuns to supplement their income. In order to buy the sweets, you simply put money in a turnstyle and one of the nuns will place the sweets on the other side-- the entire interaction happens without speaking. My friends and I would frequent the little shop often to get the most delicious chocolate truffles and sit by the Guadalquivir River, basking the brilliant sunshine.

 

Hannah Olevson. #StudyAbroadBecause it changes the way you see the world

 

One of the biggest challenges for me was living with a host family. My host mother was incredibly caring and did not speak a word of English. We often had a difficult time communicating because we were not able to understand each other's accents. However, we learned to communicate well with the help of non-verbals and intense listening skills.

 

Hannah Olevson. #StudyAbroadBecause it changes the way you see the world

 

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad?

I am more culturally aware and sensitive to other cultures after arriving back. I now have a sort of empathy for people that come to the United States, because I can appreciate the difficultly of surviving in another country. I embrace being uncomfortable because I realized that is the time you grow and learn the most. Studying abroad made me more confident and forced me to be independent. 

 

Hannah Olevson. #StudyAbroadBecause it changes the way you see the world

 

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today?

After studying abroad, I realized how studying abroad added to my college experience and now I want everyone to have a similar experience. Now I want to go into the field of international education and help as many students go abroad and experience the world as possible.

 

Hannah Olevson. #StudyAbroadBecause it changes the way you see the world

 

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?

I would start a savings account and put as much away each month as possible. Also, if there is an opportunity through the school to teach English on the side, I would highly recommend that, as you can earn a little extra spending money and interact with locals.

 

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

When I was abroad, I often was asked what New York, California, or Texas was like. I felt embarrassed to admit that I had never been to those places and realized I couldn't consider myself a world traveler until I understood my own backyard. Once I arrived back to the states, I made a point of seeking out opportunities to travel to different parts of the United States. I can say that I've been to all three of those states and realize the diversity in the United States alone.

 

Hannah Olevson. #StudyAbroadBecause it changes the way you see the world

 

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Contrary to what people say, it doesn't matter how long you go abroad, where you go, who you go with-- it only matters that you go abroad. You'll catch the travel bug and never go back.

 

#StudyAbroadBecause it changes the way you see the world

 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Hannah Olevson