Nallely Gutiérrez

Student photo

Hello! My name is Nallely Gutiérrez, and I am an Intensive Psychology major. My study abroad experience began in Barcelona, Spain, where I interned abroad through the Psychology and Cognitive Science Global Internship program. I chose this program because it fulfilled a requirement for my major and it was a perfect opportunity for me to gain practical skills and experience in a professional setting, in a city I had always wanted to visit. Additionally, my first language is Spanish so I wanted to test how well I could communicate in a Spanish-only speaking work environment, since I never grew up learning Spanish in an academic setting. My study abroad experience was full of exciting and enriching moments, as well as challenges that I was able to overcome and learn from.

Studying away as a first-generation college student from a low-income background was a rollercoaster of emotions, from the application process to being in a new country. Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to visit Barcelona due to its traditional foods, beaches, and soccer culture. I knew that sooner or later I was going to be able to visit my dream destination, it was only a matter of time and hard work. The biggest challenge I faced was finding ways to pay for the experience, while also not worrying about how I would maintain financial stability while abroad. There were many times before the withdrawal deadline that I thought about backing out and giving up this amazing opportunity. The pressure and stress of financial uncertainty were getting to be too much, thus I thought the best option would be to forget about my dreams so I wouldn’t have to worry my parents about possibly paying for the program and trip out of pocket. 

Before actually making a decision, I decided to talk to my parents. I let them know that I would be applying for as many scholarships as I could, but it was not a guarantee that I would get accepted. Fortunately, my parents were ready to offer their full financial support, even though they were tight on money. I decided to take this leap of faith and began working really hard to craft the best applications for scholarships. The scholarship that I was counting on the most was the Gilman Scholarship, since they provide up to $5,000 – which was almost half of the program cost. I would stay up late at night working on all three essays, fixing any edits that the Writing Center made. This challenge demonstrated that hard work pays off because a few weeks later I received the acceptance email, which lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. Thanks to these scholarships, my Global Internship program was fully covered! I’m extremely grateful for the immense support my family offered me throughout the process, and I am proud of myself for not giving up on this dream because without it I wouldn’t have been able to meet many wonderful people and learn new things about myself. 

Barcelona was everything I had dreamed of and more. I loved how there were coffee shops at every corner, public transportation was much easier to manage, long walks were lively, the Camp Nou was only a few minutes away, and there were many shopping centers. However, one challenging aspect of living in Spain, as someone who is Mexican-American, was speaking Spanish. It’s not to say that I don’t know how to speak Spanish, in fact, I am fluent in it. I was just not counting on how different my vernacular was going to be in contrast to Spaniards. I knew Mexican-Spanish and Spanish-Spanish were going to be different, but I didn’t think it was going to be an issue until I ordered my first coffee. To be completely honest and transparent, it would sometimes make me feel dumb or as if my Spanish was broken whenever locals would giggle at how I spoke, almost as if I was inferior to them. This was a common feeling shared amongst Hispanic peers in my program. Eventually, I learned how to adapt to this change by knowing who I could speak to normally, and who I should speak to properly. It got easier the more I interacted with locals and learned their vocabulary, as this helped me when I spoke to someone new. This was useful in integrating into the local community and feeling more comfortable with my environment.

In terms of my internship experience, I was interested in working closely with marginalized communities who lacked the resources for mental health care. This program allowed me to work with  Barcelona Actua as an intern at a refuge home for young migrants from African and Arab countries, helping them integrate into the local community. I got to meet and create friendships with them while cooking traditional foods from their countries, and during many of the summer activities I helped plan. Every day I looked forward to listening and learning about their cultures, families, and interests, which were similar to some of mine. One of my responsibilities was to observe their behaviors and participation through the various planned events and activities, and forward them to my supervisor and the organization’s psychologist, whom I also got to work with closely. I helped the psychologist conduct clinical interviews by translating her questions and the responses we would get. I also got to ask my own questions and further connect with the person we would interview. At the end, the psychologist would send me a final report in which I was able to give my feedback on what could be changed. It was amazing seeing the migrants open up when I would tell them both of my parents are immigrants and that I understand and have seen the many challenges they face. I met many wonderful people who have forever changed my outlook on life and my plans for the future. Their ambition and positivity were extremely inspiring and contagious, and they helped me discover new things about myself which has made me more excited for the future. If you’re interested in studying abroad, I recommend this global internship because of the amazing opportunities for self-discovery, learning about new cultures, creating new friendships, and confirming whether the path you’re on is the right one.

Ultimately, this experience was extremely beneficial and life-changing, I can’t wait to go back. Once you study abroad once, you’re never going to want to stop; and that’s how I currently feel as I am looking to intern abroad again during my gap year. I learned new things about myself such as how much I love the independence of living alone, buying groceries, traveling, working, and going to small shops and museums. I honed down on the field of psychology that I want to pursue that most connects to my interests. I realized that the lifestyle here in California doesn’t suit me as much as the one in Barcelona, on a personal and professional level.

Last modified: Jun 04, 2024