A semester in Spain taught UNC Charlotte political science major and Odyssean scholar Emma Frantz that exposure to different political and cultural practices can broaden the mind.
“Growing up, it never seemed important to me to have knowledge of the government and customs of other countries,” Frantz wrote in an online blog about her study abroad experiences.
Her perspective shifted while she studied and lived by the coastal city of Santander. “I now have a new goal – to study up on other countries and hopefully spread the importance of this knowledge to others – and I have this experience to thank,” she says. “I now see more than just purple mountains and amber waves of grain. I am thankful for everyone I have met along the way who was excited to learn from me and share what they know as well. It has been an especially enriching experience and I have grown from it.”
Frantz, who also is majoring in Spanish, was one of two students awarded the 2015 Odyssean Scholarship through UNC Charlotte’s Office of International Programs. The Odyssean Scholarship covers approximately $12,000 toward the costs of a semester abroad. Students can use the scholarship to study on any approved UNC Charlotte study abroad program. This achievement enabled Frantz to continue her education in Spanish literature, history, and geography at the Universidad de Cantabria.
Before leaving for her semester abroad, Frantz had reflected on her desire to work in international service, perhaps as a Foreign Service Officer. “How does one how does one decide what they want to do without having any experience doing it first?” she wrote. “How can I say I want to live and work out of the country, for my country, without having ever been out of the country, representing my country?”
Expanding her intellectual flexibility helped her to comprehend the global picture, Frantz says.
“I have come to realize that so many people know so much about my country, a foreign country to them, when I know so little about theirs,” she says. “It’s time to open our minds, expand, and mature our thoughts and beliefs.”
As a result of her experiences, she now is familiarizing herself with the political practices of other countries, and looking to spread the word about the importance of fostering international relations.
While in Spain, Frantz visited places of cultural and historic interest, such as the Santillana del Mar and Comillas in Cantabria, Pamplona in Navarre, and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. She also met and toured with other international students through cities in Ireland, Belgium, and The Netherlands. These excursions helped her to expand her outlook.
“You can’t learn from staying in one place,” she says. “You can’t continue to build on just one small plot of land – eventually you will use up all the land and there won’t be room to build. I wanted an all-encompassing education and experience. I longed to see new things. I yearned for a fresh palette to boost my motivation and finally fill in the missing chapters of my story.”
Frantz says that her time in Spain gave her a fresh perspective and motivation. “While in Spain, I taught, learned, and shared so much with the people I met,” she says. “I learned not to let my dreams fade into the parameters of my imagination. I learned that our experiences teach us the best of what we know. I will always have that to take away from this journey.”
Words: Kamakshi Kamath with Emma Frantz | Images: Emma Frantz