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World Class

A semester in Spain

By Chris Murphy
Globe Staff / March 13, 2011

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For Noorin Bhanji, a senior at Boston University majoring in public relations and advertising, study in Spain was a way to get a jump on a career in advertising. In Madrid, she took classes in the language and culture of Spain and participated in an internship at a research and consulting company called Grupo Consultores. “It was a fantastic opportunity to better learn the language and to see how advertising agencies are doing abroad,’’ says Bhanji.

IMMERSION: “All students live with a variety of Spanish families. As a result, we are able to practice our Spanish at home, explore the culture, ask questions, discover more about Spanish society, and, above all, build caring relationships with people of a different culture despite the language barrier.’’

SWEET AND SALTY: “To say that Spanish people eat anything and everything might be an understatement. Almost all tapas, including pisto, pollo asado, tortilla espanola, croquettas, and much more, are delicious. Spaniards love their pork (in any meal and any form). They also have a strong taste for eggs, as it appears with many meals but never breakfast. Spaniards also take a strong liking to salty foods and though their streets are lined with more ’pastelerias’ (bakeries) than one could imagine, sweets are usually reserved for breakfast or dessert.’’

KEEP TALKING: “No matter how well you think you know the language, it is always difficult to apply it, understand it, and, of course, to know all the words. I quickly realized that my vocabulary is incredibly basic. The pace and accent of a Spanish speaker is something you can seemingly never prepare for. The trick is to keep practicing and to remember that 90 percent of the time, they’re going to understand you anyway. If you’re lucky, they’ll even help and/or correct you.’’

PACK AND GO: “Traveling around Spain is as easy as expected, but the trains that everyone speaks of are far more expensive than the alternative (slower) options. Other than the slight language barrier that one could encounter, traveling is really quite easy. The same goes for the rest of Europe as well. There are a number of small airlines that cater to the European jetsetter. Just make sure your bag is a reasonable size (European bags are much smaller than a small American bag) and you won’t encounter any problems.’’

STAND BY ME: “Spanish culture is very close and touchy. When I first started my internship, every single person I was introduced to rose out of their chair to greet me with a kiss on each cheek. When I first met my senora (the woman with whom I live), she held me close as she showed me through the house. In general, when conversing with a Spaniard, you’re expected to stand very close without wincing. Sometimes, out of habit, I keep my American distance, only to be reminded that it comes off as rude.’’

SKILL SET: “After working with Grupo Consultores and conducting research on Spanish agencies, the idea of an international career seems more and more appealing. I hope that, given the right amount of time and experience, I can make my way back to Spain or have the opportunity to work as an advertising agency’s liaison between the United States and Spain.’’

CHRIS MURPHY