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Eagle expeditions: ‘overcoming barriers’

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Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Baker
Gabrielle Baker, a senior public relations and advertising major, spent her summer in Spain through the Cultural Experiences Abroad Program.

Every week The shield will feature a student who spent time in another country over the summer. This week, Gabrielle Baker shared about her time in Spain through the Cultural Experiences Abroad Program. 

Gabrielle Baker said anyone who can study abroad should do so.

The senior public relations and advertising major spent last summer in Seville, Spain through the Cultural Experiences Abroad Program, which works alongside the USI study abroad office. In addition to Seville, Baker spent time in Granada, Córdoba, Barcelona, Madrid and Cádiz in Spain.

Baker also went to Morocco, a country in Africa, as a weekend trip with other people with her internship.

“I thought it would be really cool to go to Africa because I had never been before,” Baker said.

Baker went to Seville for an internship with an English speaking company called Glamping Hub, which specializes in glamorized camping. She worked with the growth department, helping to build the website and find places for people to stay during vacation.

Baker said that because Seville was a smaller city and everything was connected, she was able to walk anywhere. She said that all the roads in Seville were cobblestone which made walking everywhere hard on their shoes.

“My main reason to go to Spain was work on my Spanish and to get that different cultural experience,” Baker said.

Baker was the only student from USI to go on the trip, but said she quickly bonded with her roommate, who was from Wisconsin.

“She was probably my best friend while we were there because she was with me all the places I went,” Baker said. “We bonded because we helped each other when communicating with our host mom.”

Baker went to flamenco dances with her host mom who only spoke Spanish. She went to a professional one with around 50 people involved including women in flamenco dresses and men with suits and canes.

“It was cool, it was a dance that people do to express their emotion,” Baker said. “It’s usually darker, it’s for funerals and rough experiences, but it looks really fun and cool to watch.”

Baker said that she experienced a whole other culture in Spain.

“Instead of handshakes, they gave kisses on cheeks,” Baker said. “They have a whole different type of food experience. It’s a lot of little dishes instead of big entrees.”

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Baker
Baker took a weekend trip to Morocco, Africa during her time in Spain with a group from the Cultural Experiences Abroad Program.

Baker said one of her favorite experience was visiting Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

“It’s like this getaway for people who live in the desert and don’t have water,” Baker said. “There’s a bunch of rivers throughout it and fountains and flowers and fish ponds. It was really beautiful.”

Baker funded the trip through the USI study abroad office. The scholarship she received by becoming a study abroad ambassador paid $1,000 of the trip and her parents helped pay for the rest. The trip ended up costing $5,000 in total.

Assistant Director of the Center of International Programs Melissa Gonnerman said the study abroad ambassador program is a scholarship program designed to help students afford studying abroad.

“As a give back for that scholarship, they serve as an ambassador for one to two semesters, depending on the term of their study abroad program and their scholarship commitment,” Gonnerman said.

According to Gonnerman, students must apply for the scholarship before they go abroad. This includes a personal statement and an essay as well as an interview process.

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Baker
Gabrielle Baker was the only student from USI to go to Spain through the Cultural Experiences Abroad Program.

Gonnerman said that the study abroad ambassador program is different from other ambassador programs because you get the scholarship first and then the ambassador service afterward.

“Students really enjoy it,” Gonnerman said. “After you get back from studying abroad it’s really nice to get to talk about your experiences and most of our students have overcome some sort of  barrier to go abroad in the first place.”

Gonnerman said the study abroad ambassador program helps students get more out of the experience.

“They’re already gaining a lot of career skills through study abroad,” Gonnerman said. “Being an ambassador gives the opportunity to process the experience to a deeper level and help serve and give back to the community.”

Baker said it’s really important for people to get the opportunity to study abroad.

“You get an experience that not many people will get,” Baker said. “You’re exposing yourself to cultures which make you more open to different beliefs and different ways of living.”

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Eagle expeditions: ‘overcoming barriers’