Kent State student studies abroad in Madrid

Kelsey Husnick

Most students who study abroad go for a semester through the typical Florence or Geneva programs Kent State offers, but Chris Englehart, junior Spanish major, recently returned home from a four-month stay in Spain.

The Office of Global Education is currently establishing a new study abroad program at the College of International Studies in Madrid, one of Spain’s largest cities, and Englehart is the first student to be sent to the school.

Englehart said he wanted to go to Madrid in order to improve his speaking skills and acquaint himself with the customs there.

“It’s one of the best cultures to experience,” he said. “Spanish is a second language, so to be able to go over there and do it is really great.”

CIS is a very small private college, and Englehart said it is one of the more expensive colleges in Madrid, with approximately 130 students.

“What I realized there after about a month was that a lot of the students who went there were sons and daughters of really wealthy families,” he said. “The Duke of Alba sat behind me in one of my art classes.”

Many Spanish students there have parents who are nightclub owners in Madrid, and even though Englehart doesn’t really know the significance of the Duke of Alba, he said he was “someone important enough to be in the newspapers.”

Instead of living in apartments with other English students, which is the case with most Kent State study abroad programs, Englehart lived with a 78-year-old host mother who only spoke Spanish. He said they got along fine and that he recommends future students make an effort to bond with their host families.

“A lot of students didn’t actually go out and talk to their host family,” he said. “Even if there’s a language barrier, they’re still going to try to talk to you.”

Talking to people in general was one of the most important things to do for Englehart, he said. He became friends with fellow students from all across the United States and with local Spanish students.

“Don’t miss out on socializing with anyone there, and make sure you go out and see everything because it honestly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Englehart said.

As a commuter student during his time at Kent, Englehart had never lived away from home before, so he said he was nervous when he first arrived. His experiences in Madrid caused him to “grow as a person.”

“The first couple months I was there, I kept having dreams that I was back home, and I’d be like, ‘Ok, I’m going to do all this stuff,’” Englehart said. “And then I’d wake up, and I’d be in Spain. Towards the end, I kept having nightmares that I went home early and that I forgot to say goodbye to my host mother. It was funny how my nightmares changed from me not being home to me being home, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go back.”

After he graduates, Englehart has plans to go back. He said he wants to work in Spain for a year as a Spanish teacher in order to improve his speaking skills even more.

CIS worked out so well for Englehart that other Kent State colleges want to send students as well. The College of Communication and Information is going to offer two students $3,000 scholarships to go abroad.

“It looks like a fabulous opportunity, and we’re going to send out an email shortly to try to recruit two students to go to Madrid for the spring semester next year,” CCI international programs coordinator Deborah Davis said.

CIS is only a two-year college that sends its graduates to finish their degrees in the United States. Davis said CCI’s goal is for Kent State to send more students to Madrid every year and also bring students from CIS here to finish their schooling.

“We’re hoping it will become more of a two-way street,” Davis said.

Englehart said the program is “definitely one to stay with.”

“A lot of students will enjoy it,” he said, “even if they don’t speak Spanish.”

Contact Kelsey Husnick at [email protected].