Tuesday, February 4, 2020

SLU PT Study Abroad Opportunity - Madrid, Spain

Hola! from Madrid
by Emily Redpath (DPT Class of 2023)

Studying abroad was always a dream of mine growing up. One of the main reasons that SLU’s PT program stood out to me was because it gives students the opportunity to study abroad for an entire semester – which is difficult to find in other 6-year PT programs. Deciding to go to Madrid was sort of a ‘no-brainer’ for me because I wanted the chance to travel around Europe as much as possible while still being able to work on my Spanish. The months leading up to leaving I was very stressed and anxious, but as the departure date grew near, I was so unbelievably excited for the opportunity ahead of me.

We arrived in Madrid and got the chance to meet our wonderful host parents, Marta and Jacobo.  They only spoke to us in Spanish, but they made the experience so memorable for me and my roommates. Marta and her housekeeper, Margarita, cooked us the most incredible meals that we would look forward to every single night. Marta also loved to talk to us about all things Madrid – the restaurants, the nightlife, her favorite spots, and all the touristy places she always wanted us to avoid (but we went to anyways). We got a great look into the family dynamic in Madrid on Sundays when some of Marta’s 10 children and 22 grandchildren would come for lunch. Her children loved to talk to us, and the best part was that three of her daughters are physical therapists – so we got an idea about the differences between PT in the U.S and in Europe.

 Myself, Olivia Hinkel (SLU DPT Class of 2023), Meredith Miller (SLU DPT Class of 2023), Eva Dougherty (SJU Class of 2021) and Alexis Landry (SLU DPT Class of 2023) with our host parents.

I also really enjoyed my classes at SLU Madrid. Due to the way the physical therapy curriculum is set up, I only had to take 4 classes and I had many different options. I was in two classes taught completely in Spanish so that I could complete my minor. I was also in Latin Rhythms and Dance, a class that made me completely step out of my comfort zone.  Even though I am not the best dancer, this was one of my favorite classes ever!

10 SLU DPT Class of 2023 students (and Eva Dougherty SJU Class of 2021) and I at our class dance recital.

My final class, Oceanography, was also unforgettable. Through this class we got to go on a weekend trip to Murcia, Spain. This was one of my favorite trips because we got to do and see so many of the things that we had learned about in class. We also got to go scuba diving in the Mediterranean, which was one of my favorite experiences abroad – until I got an awful jellyfish sting! I still have the scar, but it reminds me of the incredible experience that I had on the trip and in the class.

Rhadika Patel, Olivia Hinkel, Griffin Lebeau, Nathan Breckenkamp, myself (all SLU DPT Class of 2023) and Logan Williams (SLU Class of 2020) before scuba diving in the Mediterranean.

The jellyfish sting the day after it happened!

One of my favorite parts of my experience abroad was the opportunities we had to travel all around the continent.  Our first weekend trip we left Europe and went to Africa! We went with a travel group and a bunch of other physical therapy students to Morocco. We got to ride camels in Tangier and then spend another day exploring Chefchaouen - also called “The Blue City” because everything is painted blue. This trip was quite the culture shock for all of us, but I felt as though it was really eye opening and truly allowed me to experience a different culture than my own.

The group of SLU DPT Class of  2023 students on the Morocco trip.

Nathan Breckenkamp, Griffin Lebeau, myself, and Olivia Hinkel (all SLU DPT Class of 2023) riding camels on the beach

The next weekend we travelled to London, which was a stark contrast to our previous trip.  Everything was in English which was a nice change after the previous three weeks being in Spanish.  The following weekend we went to Lisbon, Portugal - which truly surprised me by its beauty.  We got to spend time exploring the hilly city, relaxing on the beach and seeing all of the amazing sites of the area.  Highlights of this trip included going on a boat cruise along the coast and meeting up with our fellow PT classmates to see the Pena Palace in Sintra!

A group of SLU DPT Class of 2023 students at the Pena Palace.

After that, we got to go to Italy, a trip that I was very excited for. We spent a day exploring the canals in Venice and two days seeing as much of Rome as we could. Both cities were incredible in completely different ways and I cannot wait to go back to Italy to see what else it has to offer. The second weekend in October we met up with more PT students and traveled to Barcelona. Everyone’s favorite part was definitely a 30-minute hike up a hill to get an incredible view over the city. Our day unfortunately ended with every traveler's nightmare - bedbugs in our Airbnb! Don’t worry, we ended up in a really nice hostel that was all paid for by Airbnb so it ended up working out better.

The view after our 30-minute hike.

At the end of October, we headed to the Netherlands to check out Amsterdam. The weather was beautiful, so we spent our days riding bikes through the park, walking along the canals, and stuffing our faces with endless amounts of Dutch Apple Pie, Stroopwaffle, and Frites. Amsterdam was one of the most beautiful places that I had ever been - which took all of us by surprise.

View of the beautiful buildings in Amsterdam.

The month of November consisted of trips to Munich, Ireland, and Seville. We were some of the few physical therapy students who did not go to Munich for Oktoberfest, but we loved visiting the city in November because we got to see all the Christmas markets! We also got to spend the afternoon at Dachau, one of the first concentration camps. The following weekend we went to Galway and Dublin.  We took a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher where we were absolutely blown away by its sheer beauty and size.


Griffin Lebeau, Alexis Landry, Nathan Breckenkamp, myself, Olivia Hinkel (all SLU DPT Class of 2023), and Eva Dougherty (SJU Class of 2021) at the Cliffs of Moher.

Our last trip to Switzerland was probably my favorite. I was stunned by the pure natural beauty of the mountains. I decided to make this last trip special by going paragliding over the Interlaken which was an experience I will truly never forget. It is truly difficult to put into words how beautiful this country was, and I know that I will be back one day.

The view over Interlaken, Switzerland.

Even with all our traveling we still found the time to explore Madrid during the week and on the few weekends that we did stay home. We did not have class on Mondays or Wednesdays, so we used that time to check out all the big sights of Madrid. We loved heading to Gran Via to shop, to Sol to check out our favorite dessert places, and to Parque de Oeste to enjoy the beautiful weather. Usually, on these days we would try and eat lunch in a new neighborhood so that we could really explore the city. I grew to love Madrid - the people, the culture, the places. I loved living right in a big, bustling city.  There was always something going on, yet everyone was so laid back and was truly enjoying their lives.

Nathan Breckenkamp (SLU DPT Class of 2023) enjoying a churro at San Gines in Madrid.

Another one of the highlights of my experience was being able to teach a free English class. I worked with a permanent Madrid student and we taught a beginner English class. No one in my class spoke any English so I had the chance to work on my Spanish. It was really rewarding to get to see how they improved and how happy they were to be learning the language. We also got to know our students, who ranged from ages 18-65, and it was beneficial to me to be able to talk to them about their lives and get to know their culture.

Overall, I learned so much on my trip abroad. I feel as though I gained a lot of independence and confidence. Being thrown into places not knowing the language or the culture really makes you step out of your comfort zone, but I loved the opportunity to do so. Things do go wrong, whether it was getting stranded outside an airport for a night, missing our buses, bedbugs in an Airbnb, or getting stung by a jellyfish. But the hard times made for the best memories and gave us the chance to truly learn about ourselves. I can really go with the flow and make the best out of difficult situations that maybe we did not plan for, which was something I was not great at before coming abroad. I formed so many bonds with people that I know will be my life-long friends. While I am glad to be back in St. Louis, I would give anything to be back in Madrid exploring the amazing city. I look back at all my pictures and memories and am so thankful that I had this opportunity to experience one of the best 4 months of my life so far.

Myself, Alexis Landry, Olivia Hinkel, Meredith Miller (all SLU DPT Class of 2023) and Eva Dougherty (SJU Class of 2021) at the metro stop right by our house on our last night in Madrid.
This is one of several posts featuring SLU PT Student study abroad experiences. Because of its unique format, the SLU PT program gives students the ability to study abroad the fall of their junior year. For more information about study abroad experiences at SLU go to: http://www.slu.edu/study-abroad.

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