Andrea Biancalana, Study Abroad ’17, Northwestern ’19
Biological Sciences, Spanish
When I first began choosing a study abroad program, I was entirely focused on improving my language skills. I considered several programs in Spain, and met with a study abroad adviser to decide on the program that was the best fit. As a Spanish major, language acquisition was a top priority for me during my fall semester abroad on the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA) Barcelona program. Just as I had planned, my Spanish speaking, writing, and comprehension skills drastically improved throughout my four months studying and living in Barcelona. However, I didn’t expect that my time abroad would also complement my other major, Biology.
I’ve known that I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian for a very long time, if not my entire life. Between Netflix docuseries about animals or Animal Planet shows about the most impressive veterinarians in the country, I’m always trying to learn more about what kind of veterinarian I want to become. When I learned about the internship component of the CASA Barcelona program, I knew I had to search for more animal experiences.
I was studying in a country I had never been to before with a group of students I did not know before the program, so working with animals felt familiar and felt like a piece of home. The animal shelter I volunteered at, El Jardinet dels Gats, became one of my favorite places in the city. For a few hours each week, I took a break from studying and traveling and focused on the stray and sick cats that needed our help. I met a wide variety of new friends – locals from Barcelona who taught me Catalan slang and other international volunteers who were eager to practice English with me.
More than a year later, I’m still surprised by how useful my time at the animal shelter has been in my various animal experiences. While in Barcelona, I learned SO much about shelter medicine and various diseases specific to felines. In my internships, jobs, and veterinary shadowing experiences, this knowledge has really helped me. I have found that being able to speak to my experiences working at an animal shelter in Spain makes me a unique candidate for both jobs and grad school.
Looking back on my study abroad experience, I’m thankful for so much. I’m thankful for every academic, cultural, linguistic, and professional opportunity I had abroad. I improved my Spanish language skills immensely, traveled to a ton of incredible new cities and countries, and met some of my best friends in the world. But most of all, I’m thankful for the cats.