As I had mentioned in previous blogs, I had always dreamed of studying abroad because I wanted to assimilate to another culture that was completely different than anything I was familiar with. Even though this program is about 3 ½ weeks, I still felt like I got that. However, the defining factor of this experience was when we had the privilege of meeting John Arboleda, a fellow Bruin now living in the neighborhood of Gràcia in Barcelona with his beautiful wife and 2 children.

Our professor had us meet Arboleda at the IED School of Design Barcelona, where he works as the director of Special Programs and Innovation. We got a small tour of the modern and colorful campus, received some small gifts, and ended up in a classroom where we got the opportunity to hear Arboleda’s story: where he grew up, his own study abroad experiences, and the opportunities for living abroad. I never really considered living outside of The States until this lecture. His charisma and sense of humor kept us students engaged and wanting to hear more about how a Colombian LA-native ended up living in Spain away from everything he knew. The timeline of how he got to where he is now is something of a story that I hope you get to hear if you decide to go on this program!

It was awesome being able to relate to a fellow Bruin who wore many caps of first-generation to transfer student. He talked about the struggle of finding employment post-grad and how studying abroad in college shaped the way he wanted to live his life.

Afterwards, we walked over to his home through Gràcia. He explained to us how during the evening, families and kids, adults and teenagers, all come to the plazas to eat, talk and enjoy each others company. I saw this group of little ones playing with those battling spin tops that I haven’t seen since I was a kid. It was so refreshing to see people outside, socializing and playing instead of locked inside with electronics.

Inviting 30 students over to your home for food is more than generous. Arboleda let us know how in Spain, the home is supposed to be private and intimate for the family, so having someone come over was a big deal — which made us feel all the more special and welcomed. He also had a fellow friend he studied abroad with over. We got a tour of his home, met his kids and got a chance to mingle some more with him, his wife and family friend. I asked questions about how it felt moving so far from family, how to continue traveling under a budget and his lifestyle in Barcelona.

I was so intrigued that this could be a reality. Since then, I have thought about possibly taking a gap year abroad.

Arboleda also serves on the UCLA Alumni Association and visits the campus every few months for his meetings. I currently am in the Student Alumni Association (SAA) which is a branch of the Alumni Association, so it was fun to talk to him about how we could work together to get more events like this going– having students abroad meeting up with Bruins living abroad in that area. It was definitely a unique experience that gave us more insight the idea of living abroad.

Paulina Hernandez studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain in summer 2018: