International Studies & Programs

Journey of a Spartan Engineer in Spain

Not only did I get to live in Spain, but I got to learn the language and culture while furthering my education in Mechanical Engineering.

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Published: Friday, 26 Apr 2024 Author: Elizabeth Sharkevich

Elizabeth standing in front of the Royal Palace in MadridI got the opportunity of a lifetime to study abroad in Madrid, Spain for six weeks in the summer of 2022 and it did not disappoint. I took Mechanics of Deformable Solids and an immersive Spanish course during those six weeks. So, not only did I get to live in Spain, but I got to learn the language and culture while furthering my education in Mechanical Engineering.

The Spanish lifestyle changed my perspective on work-life balance, where Spaniards take their time, whether it be walking around the city or enjoying their long lunches, (also known as siestas), while the American lifestyle is all about hustling and bustling. Their lifestyle emphasized the importance of social connections and leisure in their day-to-day life where I have determined there are some values I would love to incorporate in my life.

I got to experience a Spanish student's life where you have the option of taking the metro or walking through the city to get to class, all while staying in a charming dorm where I also got to connect with a few local students. At first, when diving into this immersive experience it was a challenge to overcome the language-barrier, as I knew very little Spanish, but it was surprising how quickly one can learn and understand a language when you are practicing the skills you learned in class and applying them outside of class every single day. It also helped with my confidence and creativity in expressing myself and communicating effectively, even with a language barrier.

Being in a foreign country was intimidating at times considering you are completely out of your element with no familiar faces but living in Madrid I saw so much personal growth through independence and adaptability.

The program also included guided tours where we not only got to see and learn about Madrid’s churches, rich history, and artwork in museums, but we also got the inside scoop from our tour guide who was a Madrid local. While we embraced many Spanish customs, such as tapas culture, siestas, and flamenco, it offered deep insights into the country's bright traditions and values. As a Real Madrid fan since I was little, I got to fulfill a dream of seeing the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and take a picture with their 14 UEFA Champions League trophies.

Coming from a Slavic background, I also enjoyed comparing Russian culture and values to the Spanish, where I surprisingly found many similarities. I can proudly say that coming from a family that ate soup every day, I have since added Gazpacho (a Spanish soup) into the rotation.

I have made lifelong friendships with my fellow Spartan engineers that embarked on this journey with me and cannot imagine experiencing this journey with anyone else. It’s safe to say I will reminisce on this experience and the memories made for the rest of my life and could not be more grateful for such a transformative opportunity.

Name: Elizabeth Sharkevich
Status: Junior
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Troy, Michigan
Program: Community Engagement, Summer Engineering in Madrid