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Student revisits Spain after first year at Smith

World Stage Smith Student Revisits Spain Image

Idia Irele ’16 at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain with friends.

Smith student Idia Irele ’16, had the opportunity to work and live independently in Madrid, Spain for three months last summer. As a government and Spanish double major, Idia was more than prepared for assimilating to life in bustling Madrid. Through the program Adelante Abroad, Idia interned as a blogger for an international travel website.

Before starting Smith in 2012, Idia took a gap year and worked as a private English tutor in the populous city Bilbao in Northern Spain. Idia describes how she had hoped to achieve some learning away from the typical classroom setting and “decided on a whim to spend six months in Spain” where she “ended up falling in love with the country.” Her objectives for the summer were to gain more fluency with the language, spend time exploring the country, and meet new people.

Idia’s first year at Smith greatly influenced her time spent in Madrid. It was after taking Spanish classes at Smith that Idia realized the level of diversity that exists in the Spanish speaking world. In addition, Smith’s diverse community also helped prepare her to go abroad; Idia has made many friends who come from Spanish speaking families, and feels it was easier for her to understand “the various complexities of the Spanish language and the communities that speak it.” As a government major specialized in international politics, she felt she had returned to Spain with a more solid foundation of the Spanish government and its history.

After being questioned about the highs and lows of her global experience, Idia explained that “there is something special about going to a different country alone and having to figure out everything for yourself.” Every day was an adventure for her where she was able to make friends from all over the world in Madrid and also extend her network to small cities and villages. As a young woman of West African descent, she was placed in some uncomfortable situations while on the streets, but these occurrences were made somewhat positive by sparking her interest in starting a program specific for African immigrants, an ever increasing sector of Spain’s population.

Idia envisions moving to Madrid after graduation. In the meantime, she is looking for programs in Argentina that she can attend over J-term.

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