Studying and Volunteering Abroad in Valencia, Spain

By: Karen Duarte - Published: April 17, 2019

By: Karen Duarte - Published: April 17, 2019

Florida State University International Programs granted Belle two generous scholarships, the Minority and First Generation Scholarship, to help fund her tuition and travel expenses for an unforgettable experience abroad.

Majoring in marketing and business management with a minor in psychology, Belle completed her 2018 spring semester in Valencia, Spain. During her four-month stay, she took four marketing core classes and volunteered at a local elementary and middle school to teach English.

“My classes were always engaging. For example, for my general business communication class, we were able to go out to the shopping areas to interact with the locals and practice our communication skills,” said Belle.

Although Belle was enrolled in a Spanish course, she emphasized the importance of her volunteer work at the local schools, “I was able to practice and improve my second language, Spanish.”

Belle expressed some of her most memorable experiences with the students. “When I would volunteer with the students, they would be so amazed by me being American. They would ask me questions like, ‘Is that an iPhone X? Is it real?’ Because they are so much more expensive in Spain,” said Belle. “The teachers trusted me with all the students, and because I spoke Spanish I was able to connect with the students.”

To further immerse herself in Spain’s culture, Belle participated in one of Spain’s biggest festivals that takes place every March in Valencia, Las Fallas.

“Fallas is celebrated by burning sculptures, and each sculpture represents a historic event that occurred in Valencia . Every single part of Valencia, like the little burrows, make their own sculptures and spend millions of dollars. Each day they reveal the sculptures little by little, and on the seventh day they burn them,” she explained. “I was very involved with this event. I went to all the extracurricular events they hosted, and just tried learning as much as I could about the culture.”

During the weekends, Belle explored all over Europe. She traveled to a total of nine countries: Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, England, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, and Hungary.   

“Normally we would fly, but when we went to Portugal I drove. From Spain to Portugal, it was about a ten-hour drive; however, unlike driving around Florida or other states, the scenery was gorgeous,” said Belle. “We stayed in island towns and there was really no language barrier since Portuguese is similar to Spanish.”

Belle observed cultural differences in each country, “I believe studying abroad, trying new things, and engaging with different cultures just changed who I was and made me consider different perspectives,” she said. “I definitely think it opened up my eyes and made me realize that there is so much more out there than the traditional mindset we put ourselves in.”

Belle is currently involved with the intermediate sports (IM) leadership council committee and is graduating this semester. Phi Eta Sigma wishes her the best as she moves to New York to start working for a software HR company called Paycom.