David Zabinsky '15

  • Major: Government
  • Study Abroad Program: IES Madrid, Spain

David ZabinskyWhy did you decide to study abroad and why did you decide to spend your semester in Spain specifically?

Before Bowdoin, the only times I had left the country were for Caribbean island vacations with my family during elementary and middle school. But during winter break of my sophomore year at Bowdoin, my family and I finally crossed the pond and went to London and Paris - and my whole world changed. I loved being immersed in different cultures and surrounded by different cultures (even if London & Paris are deemed more western than other European cities). After that experience, I knew there was so much more of the world to see. Choosing Spain was an easy choice because of my Spanish language skills and its proximity to the rest of Europe and Northern Africa. I chose IES Madrid's Language Immersion program because I wanted to be in a major city and challenge myself to become fluent in the language. Going to Barcelona - a city that speaks predominately Catalan - would have made it more difficult to perfect my Spanish.

How did you connect your off-campus study with your Bowdoin academics (honors project, independent study, continued coursework), post-Bowdoin plans, and/or extracurriculars, both before leaving and upon your return?

I came to Bowdoin as an 18-year-old freshman not wanting to take Spanish ever again! But when I (reluctantly) took Enrique Yepes' 2305 course first semester, I decided I wanted to continue my Spanish career. Going to Madrid simply reinforced my love for Spanish culture and the Spanish language. While there, I also visited Belgium, Italy, and Morocco, and I opened my eyes to international travel. Heck, I'm writing responses to these questions from DUBAI - I moved here four days after graduating to work in government-business relations. Without exposing myself to the beauty of travel, I never would have wanted to live abroad like I do now.

What do you believe was the impact and value of study abroad for you academically and personally?

Academically, studying in a different language helped perfect my language skills - an important skillset I will have with me the rest of my life. It also taught me the importance of diversity. I grew up in a homogenous town and was never quite exposed to true multiculturalism. Taking classes, going out, and training at the gym with people from all around the world made me a more aware, intelligent, and global person. I will never forget the four hour (friendly) debate I had with a Ukranian at a bar in Barcelona at 4:00 in the morning about the US's role in foreign affairs. This was an incredibly challenging and thought provoking experience I never would have had otherwise.

What advice can you give to current Bowdoin students about going abroad?

If you have any reservations about going abroad, all I can say is: don't. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and meet the citizens of the world. You're not going to look back on life and remember each and every single one of your eight semesters at Bowdoin, but you WILL look back on life and remember the one semester you spent abroad.

Is there anything that you experienced or learned abroad that you have integrated into your life here?

Simply put, without studying abroad, I wouldn't have sought international opportunities after graduation. I was extremely fortunate to land the job I have now in Dubai - a job that will send me to Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and more. I caught the travel bug - an infectious disease that has driven my intellectual and global curiosity to the point where I want to immerse myself in cultures other than my own. Trust me, after spending just three months abroad, you'll know the feeling.