‘One of the best parts of my undergraduate experience’

harel biggie

Harel Biggie was able to travel all over Spain during his semester studying in Madrid. Here he stands in front of the famous Cathedral in Palma de Mallorca.

Harel Biggie ’18 wondered what it would be like to:

• See the world from a different perspective
• Experience a different culture firsthand
• Live in a country where English is not the native language
• See how engineering classes are taught in another part of the world.

The electrical and computer engineering major was able to do all of those things during his
spring 2017 semester studying in Madrid, Spain through IES.

“I gained a much more open look at the world,” he says. He tried new foods, and attended cultural events. Within two weeks he had learned enough Spanish to start conversing with his host family. And he discovered that the engineering classes were less difficult than his classes at Rochester, and much more exam-based and more practical rather than theoretical in their focus.

All three of the engineering classes Biggie took at Universidad Carlos III counted toward his major. (He also took at Spanish language course at the IES abroad center.) Finding another overseas university that offered the engineering courses he needed would have been problematic, Biggie says, because “many of the schools I looked at taught Electrical Engineering courses in a different order than Rochester, which created a mismatch in semesters between courses offered there and those offered at Rochester.”

Fortunately, “all of the courses I took in Madrid had already been approved by the Electrical and Computer Engineering department from students that had studied in Madrid previously,” Biggie says. That made the process of transferring credits relatively easy. Barbara Dick, the department’s undergraduate coordinator, was especially knowledgeable and helpful, Biggie says.

Biggie was able to transfer his scholarships from the University of Rochester to his study abroad program, and he received additional scholarships from IES abroad. Those additional scholarships were “extremely helpful and without them I would not have been able to afford studying abroad,” Biggie says.

One particularly memorable experience for Biggie was when “I finally understood Spanish well enough to have a full conversation with my host family. My host family only spoke Spanish and when I arrived communication with them was very difficult. However, after a couple weeks I was able to explain more about myself and I started having full conversations. Overall, living with a host family was one of the best parts of the study abroad experience,” he says.

His advice for other Hajim School students: “If you are at all considering studying abroad you should go for it. Without a doubt it has been one of the best parts of my undergraduate experience. Also, students need to start planning early, especially if they are trying to go to a new program.”