Carrie Pichan is currently working on her M.A. degree in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language (TESOL). She’s currently studying away at NYU Madrid and we recently caught up with her to see how things are going.
You’re pursuing a Master’s degree in Madrid – had you lived in Spain before or was this your first time in the country?
I spent my junior year of undergrad in Madrid through my university (University of Michigan – Go Blue!) The search for graduate programs became a lot easier (well, stopped) once I found out that NYU offered a program at the Madrid site. Not only is being in Spain very relevant to my field, but it’s also a great opportunity to spend more time abroad, and in a city I already knew and felt very connected to.
How did you decide on Madrid the first time around?
Knowing I wanted to spend a year in Spain, my options were between Sevilla and Madrid. In the end, I chose Madrid because being from a small town in Michigan, I’m very drawn to and fascinated by big city life and everything that comes along with it – public transportation, diversity, great food (although that’s very rarely a problem here even in small towns). Plus, Madrid has the huge benefit of being right in the center of the country, so traveling around is quite easy, whether it’s to Galicia in the very northwest or south to Andalucía.
How have you assimilated to Spanish life?
It’s been a process! I think it’s a common expectation that studying away, whether it be for a summer or an entire year, guarantees a great level of integration into the host country’s culture, language, and other realms of life. While this isn’t untrue, there is a degree of disappointment that can be felt when students see that they still go out with mostly the same friends, speak English on a regular basis, and aren’t quite as connected to the country and its people as they had hoped. That being said, I’ve found it immensely valuable to take part in language exchanges (in groups or one-on-one), frequent cafés and other businesses that make an effort to connect with customers (to feel like a regular!), and simply spend as much time in contact with the country as possible, whether that’s going for walks around the city, participating in local events, or being extra observant at the grocery store.
How do you think your time in Madrid will impact your career endeavors?
It’s easy to see the direct connection between my own career goals (teaching foreign languages) and the NYU Madrid experience since the Spanish language is central to both, but the benefits extend far beyond that. As I’ve witnessed with my peers and experienced myself, the time spent outside of one’s own country or immediate comfort zone will have a positive impact on that individual’s independence, maturity, and ability to adapt to new circumstances. These skills are highly applicable to any and every career, regardless of the field or nature of the job, and they are qualities that employers value immensely. Communicative competence is also tested and grows significantly during this time, not just in terms of using a foreign language but in cross- and intercultural situations as well. In our increasingly global world, these skills are at a premium, and I strongly encourage any study away student to hone these as much as possible while the tools are at their fingertips!
What’s in store for you after your year in Madrid?
I’ll be heading to Washington Square, actually! The joint M.A. program is a two-year program, first here in Madrid and then in NYC. One of the funnier things about being an NYU student here in Madrid is that most people assume I have very strong ties to NYC, but that’s not the case. It’ll be great to finally get to know the Washington Square campus (including Wasserman!) and to be a part of the larger NYU community.
Awaiting the 2020 Olympic Games decision in Madrid
Teaching Spanish/TESOL class visit to the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid