Hi! My name is Giovanna McMahon! I am a Beta Alpha senior pursuing a dual degree in public relations and Spanish with a global business certificate, and I expect to graduate in May 2018. Last semester, I had the unique opportunity to complete my Spanish degree at The University of Granada in Granada, Spain. After spending five months in a place where I knew nothing about the country or culture and also didn't know anyone, I can honestly say it was the best experience of my life.
Every day, I walked two miles to my university, engaging in conversation with people who were generally not familiar with English, an experience vastly different from studying in a larger city like Barcelona or Madrid. Andalusians have the thickest Spanish accent in the world, and from the perspective of linguistics, the most difficult to understand. Thus, this experience was the ultimate test of faith and a major character building opportunity. When I first arrived, I understood next to nothing and couldn’t help but question how that was possible after spending nine years of my life studying Spanish. After speaking in Spanish every day, taking coursework solely in Spanish and visiting 12 cities in Spain, I can confidently say that I am finally proud of my Spanish speaking ability.
Traveling abroad taught me so much more than Spanish. While overseas, I had the opportunity to visit seven countries and many, many cities. I gained a newfound appreciation for those whose places and backgrounds are different from my own, and among my favorite experiences was chatting with other youths in hostels with whom I had nothing in common. Although I missed my Xisters, I met so many fantastic people from around the globe and really expanded my world view. Going abroad gave me a case of the incurable travel bug, and since I have returned, I have already started to plan my next continental exploration: South America 2018.
I am so glad to be back in Austin spending my senior year with my Xisters, sharing with them everything I learned in my time abroad. My recommendation to underclassmen is that if you have the opportunity, GO ABROAD- and go for as long as you can. There is simply no other experience that will challenge you in the way that fending for yourself in another country will. Going abroad is an opportunity to test your independence, challenge your beliefs, reaffirm your values and foster critical thinking in all that you do.