As you read about my experiences, there is one thing that I want you to take home: My experience working abroad was the best experience of my college career and arguably that of my entire life. To begin, my name is Ryan Kophs and worked abroad in Seville, Spain for three months over the summer after my sophomore year. I had been studying Spanish for a number of years and was looking for an exciting opportunity to use my Spanish in a real setting. The internship I got was as a researcher at the University of Seville. I worked amongst of team of Spanish computer science engineers, developing algorithms and software relating to the design process that a software engineer goes through when developing software. The internship provided me a challenge of applying my engineering skills while also only communicating in a foreign language. It was the most challenging yet exciting environment I have ever endured.
The job was fantastic; however, I feel that the true learning came from the everyday life that I experienced while living in Seville. One really cannot understand and appreciate another culture until one actually lives in that environment for an extended amount of time. I found an apartment lease in the center of the city and roomed with an Italian student who was pursuing his master's at the university. It was great because the only common language we had to communicate was Spanish, furthering my skills. I also met a great group of friends in the city, all from a variety of countries, including Italy, France, USA, Mexico, and Germany. We traveled all over the country (at an affordable student rate) and saw places that I will never forget. The locals were also very friendly and open to sharing their culture when we opened up to them.
I think my favorite part of the trip was not a specific moment but rather the everyday routine. Every morning I would go to a different cafe in the city (and there are thousands of them) and drink world-class espresso, take a siesta every afternoon, and nightly eat dinner at various tapas restaurants while experiencing the nightlife to follow. The best improvement to my Spanish came from meeting people in restaurants, bars and just on the street and just talking about anything. Spanish people are so open with you when you approach them and take interest in their culture.
In short, I learned more in three months than I ever could in a year of school, met people whom I will keep contact with for many years, and saw places that will stay with me forever. I could not have had a more challenging, exciting and positive experience than I did in Spain. It changed me as a person.
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