Forty Acres Scholar Spends Summer in Spain

From left Chelsey Bravenec, Rachel Larson and Michelle Byers in front of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.

From left Chelsey Bravenec, Rachel Larson and Michelle Byers in front of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

Architecture and Plan II sophomore and Forty Acres Scholar Rachel Larson spent her summer in Spain packing picnic lunches to eat on the beach, gazing at Gothic architecture, and planning weekend trips to other countries—all while polishing her Spanish skills.

Larson spent six weeks in Santander living with a host mother and her toy poodle and studying Spanish at the University of Cantabria with about 40 other UT students.

“I’ve traveled a fair amount, but that was the first time—apart from [last winter break volunteering in] Honduras—that I traveled by myself,” Larson says. “I was planning a lot for myself. I had to take things into my own hands and step away from the security of having someone plan it for [me.]”

In addition to soaking in the culture, Larson and her peers were enrolled in Intermediate Spanish.

“The coursework wasn’t so strenuous that I couldn’t enjoy the country,” Larson says. “I looked at the experience as personal development.”

The coursework took her language skills to the next level, Larson says. “I could watch a movie and have a conversation [in Spanish], but my grammar and word usage were pretty bad,” she says. “This class helped to fill in the gaps.”

Apart from Santander, Larson traveled to Barcelona, London, and the area surrounding Madrid while abroad. Larson was especially impressed with the cathedrals and Gothic architecture in Europe. Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was her favorite building she saw while traveling.

“I hope to work as an architect overseas after graduation,” Larson says. “This program will help especially if I go to a Spanish-speaking country. It has again reinforced in my mind the possibility of working overseas.”

Her experience abroad has already been valuable to her in the classroom.

“You already learn a lot of life skills in college, but being in a culturally different environment forces you to grow up and figure things out for yourself,” Larson says. “It makes you more dependable and more resourceful as a student.”

Larson’s study abroad experience fulfills her global experience requirement for the Forty Acres Scholars Program.

“Financially speaking, the program allowed me to go abroad in the first place,” Larson says. “It was a tremendous opportunity.”

Larson is also thankful that the program has also allowed her to network with people she would not have previously met. As for now, Larson is focusing on her sophomore year and looking for her next travel opportunity.

“I’ve had the travel bug for years,” she says, “and it’s only growing.”

Rachel Larson is a recipient of the Stuart W. Stedman Forty Acres Scholarship.

Photo courtesy Rachel Larson.

One Comment

  1. Elysia Larson says:

    Congratulations, Rachel! What a fabulous opportunity you have had, and you are a wonderful representative of UT abroad. Traveling to Eastern Europe during college was my first introduction to these places and gave me a desire to return. We later lived four years in UA and HU. Keep shining, girl!!!

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