Travis Welwood, Business Honors
Travis Welwood, Business Honors
View more photos of his photos on Flickr

I am no stranger to travel. I would go so far as to say that I am immune to culture shock, I can’t say I know what it feels like. I have spent over a year of my life in countries outside the United States — about 4.4 percent of my time on earth. In that time, I have visited 27 countries in 5 continents, and have managed to build a network of friends spanning the globe. Although I had numerous experiences prior to my excursion this last semester, none of them have quite impacted me the way my time in Spain has. My five-month-long reciprocal exchange program exposed me to differing worldviews, ideas, and lifestyles, and has allowed me to enter the lives of the most wonderful people. Each and every moment of the last five months has enriched my own cultural growth and international business and relational understanding.

Something that no longer surprises me, but nonetheless always leads to interesting conversations, are the many differing worldviews, values and opinions of people.  Meeting these people from Spain, the UK, F er rance, Mexico, Korea, Sweden, Brazil and several other nations, was a much-needed breath of fresh air. Several of these people live their lives completely differently that I live my own, and I love them all the more for it. Taking the time to listen, comprehend, and relate back has made all the difference in my own cultural and relational development. Meeting and befriending people completely different than yourself is not to be avoided — it offers each party a valuable learning opportunity and leaves you both more relatable and more understanding of other people in the end.

The single most annoying and difficult thing to adapt to in the beginning was the slow, relaxed lifestyle of the Spanish.  I came into the experience with a relatively negative stigma regarding the Spanish, considering them lazy and less intelligent than other modern societies, what with their insanely high unemployment rate at 27 percent and lax work days.  Restaurants would always shut down at 4 p.m. for the siesta, to re-open at 8:30 p.m. at the earliest. On Sundays, nothing was open but McDonald’s. After a few weeks, the Spanish culture finally broke me and forced me to eat later, take midday naps, and let go of the notion that I could do everything to my own convenience. It dawned on me that the Spanish people do things slowly, spontaneously and carefree, however this does not make them lazy. Although they do live a more carefree life than I am used to, they are very serious about their passions and loves, whether that be art, film, economic or simply people. This culture has encouraged me to take myself less seriously, and inspired me to continue developing and practicing my own passions with previously underutilized time.

Although my exchange felt like a long vacation, and in many ways was, it proved to be one of the most challenging semesters academically I have experienced in university. I decided to challenge myself, taking three out of five courses in Spanish and the remaining two in upper-level economics courses — a subject only vaguely related to my own major. The courses in Spanish greatly increased my affinity and fluency for the Spanish language, and my quantitative economics courses sharpened my strategic processing and planning skills.  Combining the knowledge I gained from my courses and my cultural immersion, I gained a better understanding of how and why business is done the way it is in Spain.

The Mays reciprocal exchange to Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in Madrid, Spain has been the single best experience of my life. It is the perfect capstone to what has been the most formative four and a half years of life — I would recommend a semester exchange to anyone. In the five months I spent in Madrid, I learned to see the world through a different lens.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.