Senior Olivia Carlisle reflects on her time studying abroad in Spain


Photo Courtesy of Olivia Carlisle

Olivia Carlisle spent her junior year studying abroad in Spain.

Many BSM students travel to different places throughout the school year and summer, whether it be traveling abroad for a mission trip, visiting colleges in the fall during MEA, or spending spring break in Mexico. Much less commonly, there are students that travel to a different country for an extended period of time. Last year during her junior year, senior Olivia Carlisle lived in Spain.

The main reason Carlisle decided to live abroad in Spain is because she was looking to experience something new and unique from her usual life in Minnesota. “I wanted to start really living and experiencing life, so I jumped at the chance to go abroad when it was presented to me,” Carlisle said.

Although Carlisle “jumped” at the opportunity to go abroad, the process of signing up and going wasn’t so simple. It involved a lot of paperwork, time, and money before she could actually leave.

Once Carlisle arrived and settled in her new home, she found both positive and negative aspects of her new experience. One of the hardest parts of living abroad was feeling homesick and estranged from mostly everyone around her. “I learned to take care of myself, and the isolation from my country gave me some perspective on who I was [or] am. I learned more about myself than ever before, whether that be good or bad,” Carlisle said.

On the other hand, she got to meet new people in her school and experience things she would never have had the opportunity to do without living abroad, finding new hobbies and exploring the vivid culture of Spain. “I grew really close with the other exchange students in my district, I tasted really good Spanish food, I got really into Hamilton as a result of my homesickness, and I thoroughly enjoyed my philosophy class. I worked on one painting for over nine months, and I got really into boxing and devoted a lot of my time to it,” Carlisle said. 

As one may expect, another contrast when living in a different country is the food and traditions.

One of the biggest differences for Carlisle was the schooling system, in which the classes are structured much more like our colleges and universities here in the U.S. “In Spain, we didn’t have homework, just tests that accounted for a large percentage of your grade. For instance, in my history class we had no homework and three tests, all of which represented a third of our grade. Basically, one test would encompass three months of material. It was brutal, but if you do well in that sort of education, then it’s a good fit,” Carlisle said. 

Another tradition that differs from the United States are siestas. “Siestas are a thing in Spain. From one until four in the afternoon all the shops in town are closed. People go back home to eat and take naps and then go back to work,” Carlisle said.

Overall through both the negatives and positives, Carlisle sees her time in Spain as a learning experience. “That’s the odd part about my exchange; I didn’t enjoy the big parts so much as the little moments of peace that I felt,” Carlisle said.