Paul-Michael Montoya

Location:  Malaga and Salamanca, Spain
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Term Abroad: Summer '11 and '13

Majors: Political Science and International Studies; MPA Sustainability Management

Career Plans:

Utilize both my undergraduate degrees and graduate degree to influence private sector companies towards improving corporate environmental social responsibility to help lead the United States to improve our environmental track record. This goal can be accomplished either in the public or private sector of the economy. My hope is to benchmark ideas from companies or governments from other countries and assess the feasibility and benefits to our communities.

How did studying abroad impact your experience at IUPUI?
My first semester at IUPUI was not on our campus, it was at Universidad de Malaga. By taking my first year of Spanish in southern Spain, the immersion experience not only advance my skills with utilizing the language within the community, it exposed me to culture differences between North America and Europe while teaching me about the history of many of my ancestors.

Was your study abroad program as you expected?
When I studied oversees using an outside program with International Study Abroad at Universidad de Malaga, the opportunity to make life-long friends from other universities created a unique experience and exposure to other students from the United States and other countries. In fact, I am friends with many of these students I met on this trip even today. Our advisors set up “intercambios” where we networked and helped other Spaniards learn to interact using English while they allowed us to practice using Spanish. In addition, the advisers organized excursions to other regions in Spain such as Granada, Madrid, Sevilla, and Morocco that was included in the cost of the already affordable program.

My second experience at Universidad de Salamanca sponsored with Indiana University-Bloomington was hosted by Universidad de Salamanca. The oldest university in Spain. The breathtaking city is rich with history and has access to the Renfre (Spanish train system) allowing students to travel to nearly any part of Spain within one day. Since it is the premier school to learn Spanish there are many students from all over the world who share a common interest and it is easy to create and build an international network.

What did you think about your study abroad program? Would you study abroad again?
In comparison between my two study abroad experiences with International Study Abroad (ISA) and Indiana University I found both programs offered different features and benefits. International Study Abroad offered similar language and culture programs at different universities in Spain. Because there were students from different schools in the same program both allowed students to create a larger network outside of Indiana University. The costs of the ISA program included the excursions whereas the Indiana University program the student covered the cost of excursions on their own. This independent travel did allow greater flexibility to travel on their schedule and on their terms. Either way, using an internal program or external study abroad program, both offer opportunities to travel, the costs were comparable, and I would rate each experience with 5 stars. Currently, I am researching study abroad programs with a focus on sustainability management from third parties agencies for my graduate program. Yes, I would encourage you to study abroad as often as possible.

What do you think you gained from studying abroad?
In each experience I gained the opportunity to study my passion which is culture outside the United States. I gain a greater confidence in my use of the Spanish language and better understanding of history of my culture. Professionally, I can use my experience of studying abroad to increase my marketability to potential multinational employers and use this experience to showcase my adaptability to survive in a global market place. I’ve created memories and made new friends from varied backgrounds including residents from Spain, Italy, England and China. Most importantly, my passport is highly decorated with stamps and visas from the European Union, Qatar, Jordan, Sri Lanka, and Morocco while traveling during my study abroad programs. Last but not least because of all the international travel I received frequent flyer miles which paid for two free domestic airline tickets.

What advice would you give to other students thinking about studying abroad?
The first word of advice I would give to any student is not to panic. Each of us will experience a bit of culture shock when we travel abroad; however, there is something very satisfying seeing the sites often shown in our history textbooks. Second, take yourself out of your comfort zone and try utilizing the local language to make friends and interact with the community. Acquiring the language will become easier. Set up a buddy system by finding a friend to travel with, experience local culture with, and finally, only allow each other to speak to each other in the local language.

On the financial side of things do your research. Apply for scholarships to pay for the program to reduce costs. Establish a frequent flyer mile account and be mindful of the global network its tied with such as OneWorld or SkyTeam. Be mindful of exchange rates and do not convert from the United States Dollar to the local currency (Euro, Yen, Dinar, and etc) until you are at your final destination to pull cash out of ATM’s. Contact your credit card companies to learn about foreign transaction fees and notify them of your travel status for security purposes. Hint: There are credit cards out there with no foreign transaction fees. When you are situated in your host country make a copy of your passport and leave the original document at home. Finally, get to know the locals! You’ll be surprised how eager they are to learn about you and your culture just you are eager to learn about them.