Student Testimonials

A chance to explore Madrid ‘in all of its cultural glory’

An aerial view of Madrid.

Forest Davis-Hollander '20 spent a semester studying abroad in Madrid, Spain “to augment the knowledge I had already obtained from courses in Spanish culture with a real, tangible experience that would be the culmination of years of devoted study.”

A Spanish class in high school triggered Forest Davis-Hollander’s love for the Castilian language. “It is more than just a language or a means of communication. It is a culture, a people, a tool that unites nearly 500 million people across the globe,” says the electrical and computer engineering major.

Is it any wonder, then, that he spent the fall of 2018 studying abroad in Madrid through IES?

A headshot of Forest.

“I knew that as soon as I had the opportunity to visit Spain, I would take it,” Davis-Hollander says. “Being now at a level of Spanish where I can seamlessly communicate with native speakers, it was time for me to apply all that I have learned and experience Madrid in all of its cultural glory.”

Planning his semester abroad was “fairly easy to arrange given that my study abroad was almost entirely arranged by IES,” Davis-Hollander says. “The process of getting everything set up, including important travel documents, was overall about 7 out of 10 in terms of ease. For the most part, my program took care of everything, and would include very specific and detailed instructions for any additional arrangements I would have to make myself.”

He worked primarily with his study abroad advisor at IES, and also with his ECE advisor Barbara Dick for the academic-related issues.

He was able to take three electrical engineering classes that counted towards his major in electrical and computer engineering—Signals, Electronic Circuits and Components, and Computer Organization. He also took one upper level elective towards his Spanish major, a class on the contemporary history of Spain.

Scholarships from IES, as well as the Hajim International Experience Scholarship “definitely gave me further incentive to follow through with the experience and make it a reality,” Davis-Hollander adds.

He’s glad he went.

“My most memorable experience began with me taking a high-speed train from Madrid to Seville. These trains travel at a top speed of about 193 mph, and I enjoyed watching the countryside of central Spain fly by as I made my way south toward Seville,” Davis-Hollander says. “There were several ruins of old castles along the track, and some incredible dry, rocky and expansive fields surrounded by big hills of very dry, crumbly soil.” 

He spent a few hours in Seville, then accompanied some local friends who lived in the city to their country house, “set in a vast and sprawling ranch almost 30 minutes away from the nearest town,” Davis-Hollander says. “This was easily the most incredible experience of my trip, just being way out in the countryside of Southern Spain.”

His trip abroad, he says, has changed his life in a couple of important ways.

“While abroad, I tried a number of different foods and activities typical to the locals of Madrid,” Davis-Hollander says. “While I did not love everything I tried, I was nevertheless inspired by that which I did like, and I have brought that inspiration back with me to my own life, by incorporating culinary dishes and customs I learned into my life in the United States.”

Because of his experience abroad, Davis-Hollander has decided to pursue an additional major in Spanish language and culture. “Professionally, this means that I will have a very strong understanding of Spanish language and culture, which may be an invaluable tool to my future career,” he says.

Any advice for other students thinking about study abroad?

“If you do it, don’t be afraid to embrace it and allow yourself to try new things. It might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it really does change everything. Being open to a new experience will allow you to appreciate everything better, and even if you find you don’t like something, you will at least know what you don’t like.”

A city Christmas tree.
Puerta del Sol and the big Christmas tree set up there every year.