I applied to the IBUS 3033W class to fulfill my study abroad requirement not sure if I would be fortunate enough to make it into the class. When I found out I got in and would be able to visit Spain again, I was elated! Although I had traveled to Spain four short years prior, I was looking forward to learning more about Spain and its culture, including after starting our B-term class. My Global Intelligence was greatly impacted and expanding from this experience, including with worldview, self-awareness, empathy, and cultural curiosity.
Worldview: From Minneapolis to Madrid to Barcelona
I was so excited for the trip to Spain, especially because I felt comfortable with my basic Spanish language capabilities and I was excited to be able to understand and speak the language a bit. While in Madrid, I felt that I was able to hold my own and speaking English at restaurants or while shopping was also not a big deal if I was unsure of what to say in Spanish. A huge change for me was going from Madrid to Barcelona with Catalan being more prominent in Barcelona. Getting used to a new environment along with a new language was a challenge for me. From ordering in restaurants to listening to the announcements on the metro, listening to people speak in Catalan was quite an adjustment and made it seem like we were almost in a different country altogether.
Self-awareness: I am an American tourist who wish they knew more Spanish
In Madrid especially, I felt that I was able to say most of what I wanted to in Spanish, but there were definitely several times where I felt that I was doing it all wrong and I wish that I was able to do a better job. Trying to speak Spanish, even when I knew I was probably saying something incorrectly was a reality check that I really did not know as much as I thought I did. My confidence also shifted when we got to Barcelona and more people spoke Catalan. This reality check was also a great reminder that outside of the U.S., it is uncommon to speak only one language.
Empathy: I am able to sympathize with non-native English speakers
Also in line with learning more trying to expand my knowledge of another culture and language, I understand how hard it is to try to speak mine. I tried to be understanding of speakers we had at site visits. I felt really bad for the main speaker at Tetuan Valley for feeling nervous about his presentation to us, because I have been nervous while giving presentations in Spanish to my classmates before.
Cultural curiosity: What I am able to take away from this trip
I went into the trip armed with my experiences in Spain from when I was in high school, my ability to speak basic Spanish, and what I had learned about Spanish culture and some of the companies we would visit from this class before we left. I was not completely prepared to learn more and expand on my experiences from before and pick up on cultural dimensions that we had learned about in class to analyze the world and culture around me. I am proud of myself that I was willing to try new Spanish foods and take day trips trying new things, including hiking in Segovia. I want to continue to travel so I can learn more about cultural differences so I can have a better view of both myself and the world. This class and trip to Spain have both been a great start and source of lessons for me to continue to be a student of the world and of different cultures.
The Hierarchal Business Model Was Very Prevalent In Spain
According to Hofstede, power distance refers to “the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities among us.” During the site visit to Hewlett Packard I really started notice the hierarchy in the workplace. The guest speakers made it known that they encourage a bottom up style of business hoping this leads to more idea generation. However, during the presentation the speakers spoke for about 5 minutes about the actual hierarchy and order in which you move up through the company. They had the typical flow chart map with the highest ups at the top and branches flowing downward that they manage. It seemed like they talked about this for a long time but because of the prior knowledge we learned in the classroom, I knew business in Spain is reliant on the hierarchical approach so I enjoyed hearing their words about it.
Uncertainty Avoidance Causes A Lower Number of Entrepreneurs In Spain
The other big cultural dimension that was prevalent in the site visits is uncertainty avoidance. Hofstede mentions “uncertainty avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known.” Spain comes in very high on this scale with a score of 86, the United States of America is only at 46. This means that in Spain the people may feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations. In terms of the business side of things, this high level of avoidance causes lower numbers of entrepreneurs throughout Spain. As Pau Virgilli mentioned in his presentation, entrepreneurship is a very tumultuous way of life and may not be the best fit for everyone. You need to be a risk taker and with such a high uncertainty avoidance, Spanish entrepreneurs aren’t as common than here in America. But, Tetuan Valley is trying to change this narrative.
Tetuan Valley is trying to be a leader by starting a entrepreneurship mindset in Spain
Tetuan Valley is the one place we went to that is the opposite in terms of their company culture. They are trying to be an innovative company that promotes people with ideas for startup companies. I really enjoyed this site visit because it got us involved and thinking about ways to make certain ideas come to life. I thought our presentations there was the highlight of the site visit because we could bring in everything we learned throughout the semester into a presentation at a company abroad.
Before this trip, I viewed it as more of a vacation than a class. I wasn’t really sure how much classroom work we would be doing so I didn’t see myself learning that much. I am very happy to say that I was completely wrong about this one. So much of my learning happened in a natural way of immersing myself into the culture of Spain. I am very glad that I can say I got the whole global experience and more in just 2 short weeks of travel.
The Chaos Of Abroad Led Me To Some Great Friends
Coming into this trip I thought of myself as someone who was very self-aware. I quickly learned this was not the case. I found out that I was only self-aware when I was in environments that were comfortable. As soon as I got to Madrid I realized I was not accustomed to being an outsider and I did not like it all. Going through Puerto del Sol was very nerve-racking for me. There were so much people and general chaos I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I had never experienced this kind of anxiety before. It was during this time I realized I needed to rely on my classmates to help me navigate it all. I am glad this happened though because this is what helped me meet such amazing friends.
Traveling Abroad Helped Me Learn To Open Up To Trying New Things
When I applying for this study abroad class a couple months ago I did not want to go alone so one of my best friends and I applied together. I was accepted, he was not. At the time I was very upset and I can vividly remember being scared about going away for 2 weeks with people I didn’t know at all. However, my friend not being accepted turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me as this increased cultural curiosity. Typically, I am someone who does not like change. I like the simple foods, normal clothing, and not being overly adventurous. This all changed as a result of my new friends. Within a couple of days I was trying paella, walking through the downtown streets of Madrid way too late into the night, and buying clothes that I never thought I would put on. By the end of the trip and now having been back home for a couple of days, I can definitely notice myself having little fear going into different cultures that I once was afraid of.
An Increase In Empathy Is My Greatest Take Away From The Trip
Half way through the trip I found myself caring about the group I was with and making sure they were enjoying themselves more than I was. I didn’t really anticipate this happening because I hardly new them just a week ago but I very glad it did. I learned that I like to be a leader during social situations and found that the greatest thing was stories the next day of how much fun everyone had. I would say this was my biggest area of personal growth from the abroad experience. I really felt like my ability to identify with others feelings and relate to them got better each day we were abroad and that it thanks to putting myself out there in uncomfortable situations.
One of my favorite sightseeing activities I did during the trip was going to the Royal Palace in Madrid. I would recommend seeing this amazing treasure to next year’s students because it was truly a highlight of my time in Madrid!
The Royal Palace has been a highlight of Madrid for centuries
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal family, as it has been for centuries, but today it is only used for ceremonies. The Palace boasts over 3,000 rooms and was built in 1755 after being inspired by the Louvre in Paris. The Palace was a short 10-15 minute scenic walk from our site visit at Tetuan Valley. Waking to the Palace was a treat in itself, especially on a nice day, because you also walk through a park and past a beautiful cathedral, the Santa María la Real de La Almudena, which could also be worth a visit. There were also musicians playing outside of the Almudena Cathedral, which only added to the magical atmosphere outside of the Palace.
Instagramable views outside and inside the Palace
I spent a fair amount of time was spent taking photos and enjoying the outside of the Palace. Some of the novelty for me was the fact that I would never see a building like this in Minnesota! You truly need a minute (or two) standing outside taking it all in and getting some great pictures to send to your parents or update your social media.
Walking through the Palace is fascinating in its own regard. The design and grandeur of the inside of the Palace will take your breath away. The intricacies of the ceilings and velour-like walls are details that would not be seen in newer buildings back home. There are also several amazing paintings that will make you feel as if you are at the Prado Museum or the Reina Sofia. My descriptions of how beautiful the Palace is and my photos truly do not do it justice!
Advice for your trip to the Royal Palace
Use your student ID card to get a ticket!
It was only 7 euros to get into the Palace, which included taking the basic tour and spending time out front.
Take pictures when you are able and know when you are unable to, or be prepared to be told by the guards!
Be prepared to spend at least 2-3 hours at the Palace. There is plenty to look at outside and taking the basic walking tour through the Palace, but there is even more if you choose to pay more to look at the kitchen and other rooms.
The Royal Palace of Madrid is a great place to spend an afternoon
The Palace is a spectacular and relatively inexpensive site visit if you are interested in taking good pictures, architecture, Spanish history, or just looking to enjoy your time out and about in Madrid. I really enjoyed my visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid and I would highly recommend visiting it to anyone who is visiting Spain!
Prior to our trip to Spain, I thought that my moderate memory of high school Spanish would be perfectly sufficient and that I was very culturally aware and understanding. I didn’t realize that I still had quite a bit to learn.
Principles-first persuading proved to be a challenge to my comprehension
The only significant challenge that I encountered when it came to differences in cultural preferences were in Erin Meyer’s dimension of persuading. My placement on the applications-first vs principles-first scale was pretty unusual for an American as I scored very close to the middle; I was still very far from the Spanish prototype though. This cultural difference really made a difference in some of the site visits, mainly John Ryan and Recyclia as their presentation style was just so much different than what I’m used to. It took quite a large portion of their presentation until I knew their main point or what their company did, which made it more difficult for me to actively engage and focus.
I had to quickly adapt my worldview to accommodate my experiences
At first I viewed this disconnect between speaker and audience as a sign of a bad presentation or an under-prepared presenter, but I soon remembered that this was in fact a cultural difference. Once I realized this I was able to adapt and modify my worldview to be more accepting and understanding of these differences, especially going into the site visit to Tetuan Valley. Another large shift in worldview just occurred from seeing how different meals in Spain can be. As I detailed in Blog 4, “their appreciation for long and slow meals and the prevalence of shareable tapas” is a “distinct example of their more collectivist culture.” This altered mindset of mine was really pivotal during my trip and affected a lot of my subsequent experiences.
My bakery interaction led to thoughtful introspection
This realization eventually led to me being very self-conscious and reflective of how I came across to Spaniards. Aside from wearing shorts and likely having an obvious American (or foreign) demeanor, I was curious as to how people were interpreting me and our group. Towards the end of our week in Madrid at a seemingly authentic bakery near our hotel, I had a pretty lengthy conversation in Spanish with one of the women that worked there. As I was talking with her, I was very conscious of how I came across but was content with the fact that I was trying to speak Spanish and respect and understand her culture.
My cultural curiosityhas been heavily stimulated by our trip
Although I would definitely say that prior to going on this trip I had pretty high cultural curiosity towards many different regions of the world, my experiences in Spain definitely elevated it for me. As I talked about in Blog 5, some of the best experiences I had were when I just explored and got to experience and witness the rich culture in its true form. As such, my interest and curiosity in learning about other cultures has grown exponentially and has been one of many things to contribute to my Global Intelligence.
Looking back on my time in Spain, it was full of site seeing, site visits, having fun, and culture shock. I had many experiences that were different from the U.S. during my time in Spain. After the trip, I have been able to better reflect on these learning experiences by looking back on what we learned in class from Geert Hofstede and Erin Meyer and seeing how these experiences are defined and make sense with cultural differences.
Tetuan Valley is trying to break through uncertainty avoidance
As shown with Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, Spain ranks highest towards uncertainty avoidance. I noticed this cultural dimension at several of our site visits where many of the speakers who were from Spain had been with their respective company for several years, especially Eva Blanco at HP. This is quite different from the US, where it is becoming more common to jump from job to job. Trying to break the uncertainty avoidance mold of Spaniards is Tetuan Valley, which was one of my favorite and most engaging of the site visits.
Tetuan Valley is a nonprofit that is working to help entrepreneurs in Spain through support and a start-up school six week program. While the applications to the programs have increased over the past 10 years, I was surprised that there are not thousands of applicants to be a part of the start-up school and that there are no plans to expand the program at this time. This would be a wildly successful program in the U.S. because our culture celebrates entrepreneurs and is less risk adverse.
HP Barcelona and Quadpack site visit presentations showed a more hierarchical and high power distance culture
Both Erin Meyer’s dimension of leading and Hoftstede’s dimension of power distance were displayed during our presentations at HP Barcelona and Quadpack, which both featured two speakers at the presentation. At HP Barcelona, Eva Blanco dominated talking during the presentation while Emili Serra almost seemed annoyed at times that he was unable to contribute more to the presentation. Then at Quadpack, David Ackley was there for only three months and talked the most about the company while his counterpart, who had been at Quadpack for over a year, hardly said anything and only added to the presentation when she was asked a question by David or us. In both of these cases the younger speaker was being polite by letting their more senior counterpart lead the presentation even if they could have contributed more because of the more hierarchical and higher power distance relationship in the workplace.
Collectivism is everywhere, but I unexpectedly found it to be a major part of Flamenco
Before our trip, it was well known that Spain is a collectivist culture from tapas to how decisions are made. During one of my cultural visits with my group at a Flamenco show, I was surprised to analyze how the performance also showed the collectivist culture in Spain. From the Flamenco performance, I learned that the music is just as important as the dancing and they complement each other. There was even a section where the dancers were performing together while the two singers and guitar player were making music in background.
Hofstede and Meyer’s dimensions are helpful in understanding cultural differences
Learning about Hofstede and Meyer’s dimensions before the trip and being able to reflect on my experiences has helped me better process my time in Spain. While there are many cultural differences between the U.S. and Spain, I am glad I have been able to experience them and learn from these experiences on the trip.
Before going to Spain, the biggest advice I heard was to plan out your free days on the weekends. At the time I thought this was great advice and so I did with great site visits to local attractions around the cities. However, like Pau Virgili quoted Mike Tyson in his presentation to our class, “everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face”. This may be a little extreme for this instance but things definitely did not go according to plan and honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
I Learned the Most When I Wasn’t Trying To
The day I learned the most about Barcelona was a day in which I planned on learning nothing. I woke up relatively early around 9 a.m. and decided to go for a run before it got super-hot. While running I saw the Arc de Triomf which has become one of the city’s iconic landmarks. The monument is classical in shape and features ground-breaking sculptural finishes full of symbolism. It is also a very freeing feeling to run underneath and something I highly recommend to future students.
After the Arc, I ventured across the city to the breath-taking views on top of Montjuic. This all-around view of the entire city of Barcelona was one of my favorite things I saw. However, this is also where my day got interesting because my phone died. I thought I knew where I was in regards to the hotel so I assumed I would be able to get back with no problems. I was wrong. After wandering the streets helplessly for an hour, I ended up near the beach. I then remembered that some of my classmates mentioned they were going to the beach today so I decided to try and find them.
The Beach Is Packed and It Is Not Easy To Find Your Friends
It turns out trying to find someone on the Barcelona beach on sunny day is the same as trying to find a needle in a haystack. So, I decided to lay down for a bit to rest as I have been literally running around for 3 hours. Another tip to future students, don’t fall asleep on the beach without sunscreen! I learned this the hard way. You might as well have called me a lobster for the rest of the trip because I was burned. It is safe to say that the walk back to the hotel was not pleasant as I got lost again. I had to rely on the little Spanish I remembered from high school and some nice locals’ direction to make it back to the hotel about an hour later. This adventure back to hotel also proved to me that Hofstede was correct about how much of collectivist society Spain is. Every local I talked to was more than willing to help out, which I am very grateful for.
Be Open To Change, It Will Better Your Experience
In conclusion, this day of adventure all started out because I got lost without a phone in a city I had never been to before. I ended up touring most of the city on my own because of how lost I was and got to eat in a very good local taco restaurant that I never would have found otherwise. So, it is great to have plans and you should plan as much as possible but, it will not go according to those plans. So be open to this and it will turn out better than you ever could’ve imagined.
Spending two full weeks in Spain was a very impactful for both my future and my understanding of the world. Prior to landing in Madrid, I had only been outside of the US for a day trip to Canada, so I had no Idea what to expect. I had no way of knowing what I was going to see, how I was going to feel, or if I was going to have to change how I normally act. Now looking back on the trip, I find it hard to believe that I was concerned about those things because of how much my world view has expanding and how much I have learned about myself.
Studying Abroad has Increased my Cultural Curiosity
The biggest change I have noticed in myself is growth in my cultural curiosity. Prior to Spain my bucket list for traveling only had a handful of international locations on it. Now that list has expanding greatly because I have learned that traveling to a new place is not only enjoyable for what you can see but also for how you feel. The added challenge of being in a different culture adds a certain value to a trip that I had not considered before traveling abroad. While it can be intimidating in the first couple of days, by the middle of the first week I was able to embrace the challenge and really enjoy it. I look forward to taking on new challenges to see what it is like to be in other parts of the world.
Studying Abroad Molded my Worldview in Unexpected Ways
My worldview was greatly developed in my time in Spain. I had no way of knowing how noticeable cultural differences were in each country prior to this trip. We were lectured on what aspects of Spanish culture were different than the United States. However, I was very skeptical of these lectures up until our first day in Madrid. I did not believe that these cultural dimensions would actually be noticeable in our day to day activities. After spending just, a day in Madrid I was quickly persuaded that they would be noticeable. As I noted in my fourth blog there were many significant differences that were easy to notice as we walked the city.
Carlson’s Mandatory Study Abroad Creates a More Openminded Student Body
Signing up for a study abroad program was definitely not in my plans for college and truthfully, I was not looking forward to it prior to starting this course. However, after completing the program my opinions on the mandatory study abroad rule that Carlson has have changed. I learned more both academically and about myself more in this course than many of the courses in my major. Both my future plans and my worldview have drastically changed as a result of this program.
Spain is a fantastic country with amazing places and people, but without the proper research and knowledge, it can be an overwhelming experience for foreigners. From avoiding tourist areas to learning some Spanish, here is my best advice to future students.
Make sure to utilize your free time and plan accordingly
Initially when I was looking at our program schedule and was trying to plan different excursions and activities, I completely neglected weekday free-time and only focused on the weekends. My impression was that our days would be filled to the brim with activities and that there wouldn’t be much opportunity for exploring until the weekends. However, most days we had several hours for a lunch break and almost the entire night to ourselves, starting around 6 most days. So even if it’s just finding a few restaurants or activities (Barcelona) that sound interesting, having some sort of plan may prove useful. For me, one rewarding example of this was going to the Reina Sofia Art Museum on the Thursday night that we were in Madrid. I had planned this activity earlier in the week and am very glad that I did, because I wouldn’t have ended up going there if I hadn’t.
Venture outside of the busy and crowded tourist areas and go explore
Despite my recommendation to plan some activities ahead of time, I also think it’s very rewarding to wander around and try to get away (Barcelona) from some of the more touristy areas. This will allow for more authentic and diverse experiences and in my case it led to many of my favorite moments on the trip. Whether it’s enjoying a very long meal to experience the relationship-based trust style that is prototypical in Spain, or experiencing the collectivism-influenced tapas, you should try to find more culturally-authentic activities. Especially since Spain’s cultural dimensions are so different from what we experience in the United States, it would be rewarding to try to witness them firsthand.
Don’t solely rely on everyone there to speak perfect English
Although you may think that everyone will speak English because Spain is in Europe and Madrid and Barcelona are both pretty touristy areas, this isn’t the reality. Many of the students on the trip were expecting that knowing Spanish wouldn’t be a necessity or even that much of a luxury, but it turns out that we were wrong. Although English is the second-most spoken language in Spain, close to 60% of Spaniards say they don’t know any English at all. There were many times that I had to use my four years of high school Spanish to communicate with people and it really came in handy for me. Because of this linguistic disconnect, I highly recommend learning at least some basic Spanish, through a free site like Duolingo which is very helpful and easy to use.
When you say that you will pick me up at 8am that means I will be on my front steps at 7:59am waiting for you to pull up. This aspect of my daily life reflects the impact of the monochronic scheduling our culture in the States has developed. In the case that someone does arrives late I am quick to build frustration, which did not bode well for me in the polychronic scheduling culture of Spain. Another aspect of our study abroad trip that made me uncomfortable was talking with accents. Although there were plenty of times I was frustrated and uncomfortable, my experience abroad has positively affected my Global Intelligence.
Loosening my perspective of scheduling
I’ll be the first to admit that my irritation towards the scheduling of Spain did not subside quickly. My first irritation really came when we experienced La Boqueria for the first time. I expected everything to be open from when the website said it was open to when it was closed. Many stalls were closed early. To me this seemed like a lost opportunity from a business perspective. However, after reflection I realized the importance of life outside of business opportunities and following a schedule closely. I now see the value of closing early because you want to spend time with family or friends and in that realization, I also feel myself becoming more understanding of a polychronic schedule. Also, this made me more self-aware of the offensiveness of my outward expression of my frustration.
Using an accent is polite
I should preface this section explicitly stating this is
purely subjective. As a white male in the States I have felt that any
references to other cultures and ethnicities I make are usually offensive or
racist without any intention of doing so. An example of how this feeling has
shaped my perspective is when I speak Spanish I feel like I am being offensive
when I use an accent. This belief made me uncomfortable speaking the language
at first. However, after reflection and discussion with other classmates I
arrived at a different conclusion. I put myself in a local’s shoes and thought
about how I would feel if some foreigner spoke my language with the proper
accent. I would greatly appreciate the effort and understand them better. Speaking
with an accent helps understanding and shows a consideration of the other cultural
because it shows that you are willing to be uncomfortable to make them
You must leave your comfort zone to understand and care for others of a different culture
As a US citizen, it is easy to believe that we are supreme
relative to most countries due to economic success and other technological
advancements. However, this is a toxic belief system to have if we ever want to
comfort those of another country. Whether it is a difference in scheduling
perspective or the way we communicate with each other there is always an
opportunity to show awareness and empathy to an individual of another culture
by listening and willing to adapt to their own norms. I am thankful for this
experience and look forward to having meaningful relationships with others from
a different culture.