Christine Pope




Christine Pope


Your majors:

Marketing and International Business


Engagement on campus:

Lindner Ambassadors, Business Fellows Leadership Circle


Coop Placements:

Colgate-Palmolive; Procter and Gamble


Graduation year:

April 2016


Location and type of program where you studied abroad:

Bilbao, Spain through USAC


Describe the location you studied abroad for someone who has never been there.

Bilbao, Spain is a costal town in Northern Spain that is part of the Basque Country, a unique culture within Spain. It feels like a Spanish city but the Basque culture gives the city a distinctive feel from the rest of Spain. While Bilbao is not the capital of the Basque Country, it is known as the heart of it because there are many landmarks, cultural and historical sites, as well as beautiful costal scenery.


How did you afford an international experience?

I worked with the Financial Aid to have my scholarships released to me so that I could pay for my tuition and homestay in Spain. I applied for scholarships from UC International, University Honors Programs, and Business Fellows.  UC helped me not only pay for my tuition and room and board in Spain but also granted me money to go travel and create a lifetime of memories.


What was your favorite class or academic activity abroad?  Why?

My favorite class was a class in which we traveled around to culturally important sites in the Basque Country. It taught me so much about the Basque culture, which has immensely rich traditions, values, and history. It is hard to understand it without going and experiencing it and this class allowed me to do just that. From going to the infamous Pozalagua caves to a museum of the Basque language to a mythological theme park, I learned so much about a culture and grew as global citizen.


Describe interactions you had with locals.  What did you learn from these people?

I was able to talk to a wide range of people and get an even wider array of perspectives. I talked to my host mom everyday, people on the train, patrons in my frequent café, taxi drivers and so many other people about various topics. One of the biggest topics I discussed was about Bilbao’s history and how that affected the way of life today. It was fascinating to learn about how the culture was almost wiped out and how they are still trying to figure out their roles within the relatively new democratic system in Spain.  I also took the opportunity to discuss topics like politics, economics, religion, which are usually taboo in the US but acceptable to discuss in Spain to get a sense of the diversity. Even though some perspectives were very different than my own, I respected and appreciated the different perspectives that people brought to the table because it let me understand the cultures better and connect the dots to gain cultural intelligence.


How has study abroad influenced you career path?

This experience has made me more open to living abroad at some point in my career. After graduation I am working for P&G, which is a global company. They like to send employees who are willing to go abroad to one of their international hubs and after studying abroad, I realized that I could see myself being one of those employees. This study abroad made me realize how much I thrive in new, foreign environments and that I have a thirst for travel.


What is something you learned from studying abroad?

One of the biggest things I learned from this experience was that the world is made up of so many amazing cultures, even the small ones that aren’t notorious or that you’ve never heard of previously. I didn’t know anything about the Basque culture before studying abroad in Bilbao but learning about their history and participating in their culture made me see the greatness of this small culture. I think it made me realize how big the world is but also how much fun it is to discover it culture by culture.


What was your biggest challenge while studying abroad?

My biggest challenge while studying abroad was trying to adjust without my family and friends. I did not know a single person when I went to Spain and it was a completely new environment, so it was a challenge to try to navigate that by myself. However, it forced me to find strength in myself that I didn’t know was there, which was important for my personal growth.


If you had the chance to study abroad again, what would you do differently?

If I studied abroad, I would have explored more of the city in which I was actually studying. I put a lot of time and effort into exploring other parts of the Basque country, Spain, and Europe, and not a lot of time in Bilbao. I think I got into a routine at the beginning of the semester in terms of classes, cafes I would go to, and stores in which to shop but I didn’t venture outside the routine too much and instead put my spontaneity into other travels. Therefore, at the end when I was getting ready to return home, I was finding all these cool places in Bilbao but I couldn’t go to all of them. I wish I had taken more time to really explore the ins and outs of my host city.


In your opinion, why should every student study abroad?

It’s incredibly important in today’s world to get a global perspective because whether we realize it or not, what happens in the world affects our lives. Thus, it is vital to understand diverse cultures because it helps you better understand your own culture, history, as well as future. Also, in today’s global world every businessperson must possess cultural intelligence, which is the ability to adapt oneself to cultural differences. If you do not go study the world, you’ll never understand how much diversity is in the world or importance of truly adapting to different cultures.