Interview: Griselda Matos Martinez

Griselda Matos Martinez is a junior currently studying business at LaSalle Barcelona, one of CBU’s student exchange institutions.

Griselda in front of the Sagrada Familia

Griselda in front of the Sagrada Familia

How is attending a university in Spain different from attending CBU? I would say that universities in Spain are more relaxed than in the United States. For instance, instead of having homework, various exams, a midterm and a final exam throughout the semester like in CBU, the Spanish university only has one or two big projects and possibly a midterm or a final exam throughout the semester. Barcelona, which is where I am, is a very popular destination for international students. It is considered a city for the youth where many cultures converge and mix. That’s the reason why, on average, 20% of the classes are usually exchange students from different parts of the world.

Why did you decide to study abroad? I’m originally from Panama City, Panama in Central America. I went to the United States to pursue a dream and a better education. The same impulse that made me leave my country and go to the United States is the same one that made me leave the United States and go to Spain. Studying abroad in the United States opened so many doors and opportunities for me that I would’ve never been able to get in Panama. In the same way, studying abroad in Barcelona, is opening many more doors and opportunities for my future.

Why do you think it is important to study abroad? I think it is important to study abroad because it helps you broaden your horizons and it makes you look at things from another perspective. It looks good on a resume, but the most important thing would be the experiences gained while abroad. It will certainly be one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences in college.

Students listening eagerly at foot of professor.

Students listening eagerly to their professor in Barcelona

Tell us about Spanish culture. Spanish culture is very relaxed and informal. Since Spanish is my native language, it is easier for me to communicate with other people here in Barcelona. Although Barcelona’s most spoken language is Catalan, Spanish is also widely spoken. If a Catalan sees that you don’t understand Catalan, s/he will happily switch to Spanish or English if they know how to speak it. Since it is a popular tourist destination, English is common. I referred to Spanish culture as “informal” because of the way Spaniards communicate. A way of saluting or saying hello would be with a kiss on each cheek. That might come off as a culturally shocking experience for Americans because it is not a common practice in the United States. The way they address each other is also informal. Instead of saying “buenos días” (good morning) or “usted” (you in a formal way), they would merely say a simple “hola” (hi) and they would use “tú” (you in an informal way) to refer to people older than they are.

How has this experience affected you and how you observe the world? The biggest reward this experience has given me so far would be the possibility of getting to know myself a little better. When you find yourself in another country with another culture and having to do things by yourself without depending on others, you will get the chance to understand yourself better. I came to this country with a phrase on my mind: “Every adventure starts with a YES,” and I’m planning to make it count. Defeat fears, break barriers and explore every chance you get!

What are the best and worst parts of studying abroad? Why? The worst parts of studying abroad would be the feelings of being lost and uncertain that you get when you first arrive and the feeling of melancholy you get for being away from your loved ones for so long. Although you get that feeling of sadness, for me, the best part of studying abroad is being able to learn how to appreciate and cherish the time you have with those loved ones once you see them again.