Shaila Vera, a fourth-year Spanish major at Wartburg, spent the 2019 Fall Semester abroad in Alicante, Spain. Not only did she say she found it to be safer than the United States, but she also found it to be more accepting of her gender and Latinx heritage.

“I felt safer in Spain than I ever have in the U.S.,” Vera said. “Part of it has to do with being brown, where in America, I feel like I get a little more judged, especially in classes, and it can be uncomfortable. Alicante is a little more diverse, and they have a lot of people from all sorts of areas.”

Vera on her first day of school. Submitted photo from Vera.

Even with general safety concerns, women have been found to study abroad at a percentage significantly higher than men. In the 2016-17 academic year, women made up over two-thirds of American students studying abroad, according to a study done by the Power of International Education. That proportion has been constant for over a decade.

Vera said she felt that Spain looked at women and minority’s rights with a critical mindset.

“It was easier to be a woman,” Vera said. “I think they take women’s rights very seriously, which is amazing. There were a couple of women’s marches, and they were very aware of the gender difference.”

Students are able to learn and observe these cultural or behavioral differences in their adventures overseas. For Vera, it wasn’t just about women’s or race issues, but also becoming more mindful of her own habits. She said in the U.S., she thought people did not reflect on their actions like they did in Spain.

Cityscape of Spain. Photo submitted by Vera.

“I had kind of forgotten about the beauty of where I was living. Walking around and hearing the music, seeing everyone enjoying themselves, the weather is always nice. It is surreal to see that is how people live,” Vera said.

While study abroad opportunities for the 2020-21 academic year have been canceled due to COVID-19, students at Wartburg have studied abroad for entire semesters, a May Term or the summer in the past. To learn more about studying abroad at Wartburg, go to wartburg.edu/study-abroad/.






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