By Eamon Gaffney
As cliché as it sounds, studying abroad was the most enriching experience I have had the opportunity to partake in during my time in college so far. However, I consider my study abroad experience to be somewhat different from most of my friends’. I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain through another university’s program. Beyond taking interesting classes and living in a different culture for a semester, it felt like I was a freshman again. By choosing to study abroad through Saint Louis University’s program, I started out without knowing any classmates or professors in a city I had never lived in before.
My SPIA classes at The University of Georgia thoroughly prepared me for the classes I would go on to take while abroad, and I have the SPIA professors to thank for that. Something I have noticed throughout my career in SPIA so far is the focus on open-minded critical thinking about the issues we delve into in class on a weekly basis. While in Madrid, I took an international terrorism class taught from a European perspective. I felt as though I had a leg up compared to my classmates. By drawing from my critical thinking training in the many SPIA classes I had taken before this terrorism class, I could easily compare the European experience to a more familiar American perspective on the issue. I excelled in the class in large part because of how SPIA classes challenged me to think beforehand.
Another skill I developed while taking SPIA classes that helped me when I was abroad was research paper writing. As a sophomore in a political methods class filled with mostly juniors and seniors, I felt fully prepared for a twenty-page research paper that we spent about two months on. Utilizing the critical attention to small details instilled by SPIA professors, I was able to execute a strong research paper. I kept these lessons in mind when undertaking this project and did very well in the class.