Aileen Villalpando '20
Because I went abroad…
I was able to put parts of my identity in dialogue with each other in ways that I hadn’t thought possible before. I found the perfect opportunity to study Latin American literature in a global context, delve into the complex relationship between culture and engineering, and more, but, at the base of it all, I learned most about myself. This was an opportunity for me to expand my horizons, beyond the cliché passport stamps. I got to speak with pro-Independence Catalonians and Argentinian expats, Barcelonian sculptors and Andalucian engineers. I touched buildings that were forgotten memorials of the imprisoned Barcelonian women, celebrated local monuments that emblazoned Catalonian identity, and world-renowned feats of architecture that spoke to the complex history of the Spanish and Arabic languages. The contact and friendships I made encouraged me to think deeply about how I communicate with others and myself, and the independence and complete distancing of familiarity was an incredible privilege, introducing a discomfort that moved me to some of the best decisions of my life.
Ask me about….
Taking financial aid abroad
Studying engineering abroad
Interning and TF’ing abroad
Being a student leader in Harvard clubs while abroad
Staying in touch with friends at Harvard
Being enrolled in different universities
Living in a mixed flat with other international students
Traveling alone as a woman of color
Choosing the right program for you
Study Abroad Highlights…
- I was able to intern at the Universitat de Barcelona’s Facultat de Medicina, in the biophysics research wing of their hospital. My role was to provide support in electrical engineering basics to other undergrad students preparing their theses.
- One of my favorite courses walked me through a portion of the Latin American literature canon, which was such an interesting experience coming from a Spanish point of view. It was incredible to read through the classics surrounded by Spanish literature concentrators, and even more so when I was introduced to their understanding of Latin American history.
- I was able to TF for CS50x in an online class throughout the semester, which was a fantastic way for me to grow as a teacher, with students from every imaginable background, all over the world, of all ages. It was a great challenge to adapt my understanding of the curriculum from the needs of a peer at the College to those of a curious mind in Sweden.
- Unlike most Spanish students, I was able to enroll in two different universities, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and the Universitat de Barcelona, to take courses in literature and engineering. This exposed me to two distinct student cultures on the same metro line, a fascinating flash comparison of Spanish pedagogy between the arts and sciences, and a great way to start a conversation with students at both schools.
Other International Experience…
- DRCLAS Winter Break Program - Mentoring and Language Acquisition in Brazil (MLAB), funded by DRCLAS