Hannah Allen

Hannah Allen was studying abroad in Madrid, Spain during Spring Semester 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic cut her program short. Hannah shares how she still made the most of her experience and why she's already planning her next study abroad journey.

How did you decide to study at University Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M)?

As a film minor seeking to finish my required credits, I immediately prioritized programs that allowed for a very hands-on approach to television and film production. While there were some film studies at other universities, UC3M, in particular, was known for its media programs and its advanced technical equipment. Because I wanted that more, it seemed like the perfect fit. 

What was your favorite thing about your time at UC3M?

I actually really enjoyed getting to know the professors who taught film and television at UC3M. Sometimes when you go abroad, your sole focus becomes to meet individuals of your age. While these connections are incredibly important, friendships are not necessarily limited to the young. When talking to my professors, I asked about things like Spanish housing, food and even got insight into their graduate programs. By getting to know the adults and professionals I was surrounded by, I was able to get a better insight into what my own life could be in ten or more years.

What obstacles did you think you would encounter when you were planning to study abroad?

One of the things that I was worried about was getting too comfortable in being abroad, and forgetting to actually take advantage of the opportunities before me. While getting adjusted super quickly might seem beneficial, I still wanted to feel like I am getting the most out of my abroad experiences.

If you did encounter them, how did you overcome those obstacles?

I tried to combat this by adding in some spontaneity to my regular routine. Sometimes I would spend the weekend hanging out with my friends and roommates, but then I would immediately spend the next weekend exploring the city. Or there would be times when I would make food for myself every single day for two weeks, but then I would go out to a nice restaurant and try the local cuisine. By balancing these two things, I was able to continue my adjustments, while also investing in my adventure abroad.

How was your experience at UC3M impacted by the pandemic?

As students, we began slowly getting information about the pandemic throughout February 2020 and into the early weeks of March. On the way to class, you would hear shop vendors whispering about the virus in the early morning and professors would regularly ask if any students had relatives in China or Italy. There were many international visitors, myself included, that believed the virus would just be a small blip on an otherwise perfect study abroad experience. When we began to realize that this wasn’t the case, the panic of going home after only three months became all too real. There were so many more restaurants I should’ve visited, clubs I should’ve danced at, cities I should’ve seen and friends I should’ve made. But, I always thought I would have more time. The week they announced that the U.S. borders were being closed for international travel, my mom had come to visit me while she was on vacation. I was so proud to show her how well I was doing in this new country, and as I got ready to return home, I was heartbroken at having to leave behind the new life that I had slowly begun to build for myself.

How did you adapt to this major change in your student experience and what have you learned from it?

Pandemic-induced remote learning meant that much of my time interacting with my Spanish peers was six hours too late. However, I was not going to let a little time zone difference stop me from making the most of my experiences in film classes. I made sure to email my professors often and thoroughly and I was distinctly active in all of my class Whatsapp discussions. At one point my television group created a 20-minute long video that featured 10+ students from 3 different timezones. Working together in spite of such difficulties made it all the more sweet when we had a beautiful project to reflect on at the end of the class.

Do you plan to study abroad again in the future?

As I am writing this, I am already preparing myself for a fall semester abroad in Seoul, South Korea. The combined pressure of a new country and the pandemic would usually have me on edge, but I think that my time abroad in Spain has shown me that I can truly make memories and be successful anywhere. 

How has this experience changed the way you think about the world?

I think that traveling to Spain really reminded me of the simple pleasures that you can find just looking around. Each day, I made it a goal to take a new way home every time I would come home from school. These free daily walks were some of my most pleasant times studying abroad because I got to see and interact with something for the first time. Sometimes browsing a new shop or finding a new street can be just as insightful as any other experience I could have had.

What advice would you give to other CWRU students considering studying abroad?

Anything can be possible with the right amount of preparation and communication. Too often, I meet engineering majors or pre-med students that think that studying abroad is out of bounds for them because of their course load––but it is not! Each person deserves a chance to study abroad and the individuals working at the Office of Education Abroad are dedicated to making sure that that can happen.