Speaking Spanish and More in Spain!

Large dish of paella, a traditional Spanish dish
Kathleen Coleman dreams of returning to Spain and would like others to know that having a travel companion with Asperger's can enhance an already-unique experience.

MIUSA: How did you prepare for your international experience?

Kathleen: I have always been very interested in foreign cultures and languages. My advisor at the Tulsa University, Dr. Jane Corso, encouraged me to meet with Cheryl Matherly and Laura Semenow of the Center for Global Education at Tulsa University. My support team at Tulsa University knew some of the challenges I faced with Asperger's Syndrome but felt they could find a program to accommodate my special needs.

Clara Rhodes, Director of the CIEE Barcelona Study Center, was just the person I needed. Her center in Barcelona helped me coordinate my time there by choosing a host mother who understood my special needs, advised me on classes I should take, and interviewed chaperones who would accompany me on non-university outings. Although the chaperones were an additional expense, it was worth the money because I always felt safe.

What was your experience living in the host country?

My semester in Barcelona was the highlight of my university experience. Immersing myself in Spanish culture gave me a sense of independence and confidence I had not known before.

I learned my way around Barcelona via the Metro. My trip to the study center was nine stops each way from my home on Avenida Madrid. I still maintain my bank account at Banco Sabadell and look forward to future trips there.

I got lost several times, but never permanently! I visited several Spanish doctors for sore throats. However, my biggest challenge was getting my visa to stay in Spain past the three-month limit. It arrived at my house only hours before my scheduled departure.

Looking back, would you do anything differently?

If I had the opportunity to experience my time in Barcelona over again, I would like to have had a question and answer session with all of the students in my group who did not have a disability. I feel that they would have been more comfortable around me, and I around them. They would have known that I was different - but in a very good way!



Kathleen Coleman