Alumni Q&A: Rachel – San Sebastian, Spain

Name: Rachel Yates

Program: San Sebastian, Spring 2014


1. Why did you choose the program that you did?

I study Spanish as a major so I knew I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, and I knew I wanted to be in Europe because it would give me the travel opportunities I was looking for. I also had a few friends who had studied in Basque Country and strongly recommended it to me.

2. If or when you study abroad again, where would you like to go? Why?

I’d love to do South America now, to further my Spanish. I don’t think a lot of people understand how massive and distinct the different places in South America are. I want to see as much of it as I can.

3. What are some of your favorite highlights from your time abroad?

Working as an au pair for a family there was great. I feel close to a lot of people in San Sebastian now, and I know I can go back and be warmly received whenever I want. I also loved backpacking through central Europe; Budapest is definitely one of my favorite cities in the world, you could spend years there and never be bored.

4. In your experience, what are the major benefits of studying abroad?

I gained a huge sense of security during my time abroad. The realization that humans are largely the same and good-intentioned everywhere is cool, and knowing I’m capable of handling all kinds of situations has made me confident in almost every other area of my life.

5. What were some of the special/unique things you were able to do or see?

In Prague, a couple of my friends and I sneaked by an entrance and climbed the exit stairs of a huge arch at the end of the Charles Bridge. When we got to the top, we pushed open a huge old window and got the most amazing view of the oldest part of the city, the river and the masses of people crossing the bridge filled with street vendors and musicians. We got kicked out right after, but it was definitely worth the risk.

6. What was a fun cultural experience?

I loved my Basque Cuisine class that was offered through USAC. Every week we got to cook alongside a family of chefs in their private gastronomical sociedad and eat a giant traditional Basque meal.

7. What did you learn about yourself?

I’ve learned that I really thrive when faced with new and sometimes uncomfortable situations. I’m pretty adaptable and knowing that has made me want to kick the complacency I feel in my everyday life.

8. How did studying abroad change you?

I think it unlocked some part of brain that made me realize I can live any kind of life I want. There’s absolutely no wrong way of doing anything I might want to do. People all over the world live lives different from mine and seeing that taught me to forget my weird inhibitions.

9. What’s one thing you would have done differently?

I would’ve stayed longer!

10. Now that you’re home, how has study abroad impacted your life?

I’m trying my best to bring back the aspects of life in the Basque Country that I loved. Right now I’m focused on recreating the simplicity of things there. Really great simplicity exists there in food, clothes, transportation, and just lifestyle in general. In the States I feel like we’re really concerned with having more of everything, when having less and appreciating quality is actually a more satisfying way to live.

11. How many years did it/will it take you to graduate?

I’ll probably finish in 5 years, would’ve been that way whether I went abroad or not.

12. What are you doing now?

Taking a full schedule of classes, really enjoying my Spanish classes in a way I couldn’t before. Interning for a political consultant. Looking for hidden gems in Reno for food and stuff to do. Appreciating my friends I was gone from for so long!

13. What, in your opinion, are the biggest myths students believe about study abroad?

That it’s too expensive/ not worth the money. It IS expensive, but you can’t put a price on what you’ll gain from it and the amazing times you’ll have. Get another job, take out a loan, beg your parents, get better grades so you can get a scholarship, do whatever you have to do… because if you blame not going on the money, you’re the one who will be poorer without the experience.

14. What advice would you tell students trying to decide whether or not to study abroad?

Just go. When else are you going to do it? Next time you’re in your early 20’s? Next time you’re an undergrad? The next time you don’t have a career that you can’t take time off from? The next time you’re this young and have the energy and wherewithal to travel and learn? Seriously, go right now.


San Sebastian is one of our longest-standing programs, it’s worth reading more about!