‘An amazing chapter in my life’


Gina Bolanos, shown here at Cordoba, Spain, started talking to advisors about study abroad as early as her freshman year.

For Gina Bolanos ‘18, study abroad became an opportunity to not only learn, but to teach.

The mechanical engineering major volunteered as an English teacher assistant for two third-grade classes at a local school during her spring 2017 semester in Madrid, Spain.

“It was memorable because I adore teaching and was able to interact with locals,” Bolanos says. “My Spanish improved so much and I was able to make amazing friendships that I couldn’t easily make on my own.”

Bolanos says she wanted to study abroad because it would be a great way to improve her Spanish as well as take classes in engineering that could count toward her major. “I knew from past students how much fun they had traveling the world while being a student, and I wanted to do the same,” she says.

Arranging her IES Madrid trip was fairly easy, she says, because she started talking to advisors about it as early as her freshman year. She worked with the University Center for Education Abroad, her academic advisor, and the Department of Mechanical Engineering to find out about scholarships and which classes to take.

She took two classes at Universidad de Carlos III, both of which will count towards her major. She also took history and Spanish classes from IES.

She received financial help through IES Future Engineers, IES Need Based, IES Gilman, and the Benjamin Gilman scholarship. “All of these scholarships were an important factor for my family and I,” Bolanos says. “It was easy to say I could study abroad, but financially it was a difficult barrier. I am very thankful to have had amazing mentors to help me apply to all these scholarships!”

And she’s grateful for what she has gained from studying abroad.

“I became a better student and more aware of my future goals,” Bolanos says. “I no longer am afraid of working in another city or even country. I am more confident in myself and in my work. I owe it to the academic rigor at Carlos III that helped me define my study skills. Lastly, I gained an amazing chapter in my life, filled with memories, and I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat.”

Her advice to other students:

“When thinking of study abroad, understand yourself and what you want to get out of it. If you don’t want to miss out on campus life or be away from your family for so long, then consider a short summer abroad trip. However, if you’re thinking of immersing yourself deep into a culture then perhaps a whole semester is the right thing for you. Understanding the time commitment is something a lot of people take for granted. Study abroad is a remarkable experience if you choose the right program for you!”


Gina Bolanos visited Tangier, Morocco during her study abroad semester in Madrid.