Studying Abroad in Spain: A PR Student's Story

by Abigail E. Peck

For three weeks this past summer I had the privilege of joining 14 of the best and brightest public relations and communication students from Azusa Pacific University on a short term study abroad experience in Spain. We learned about international communication while traveling this beautiful country, visiting Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada, Segovia, and Toledo. Ismael Lopez-Medel, Ph.D., head of APU’s public relations major, coordinated and led the trip. Born and raised in Madrid, Professor Medel taught communication classes in Spain’s top universities and served as a public relations professional prior to his role at APU. With Professor Medel as our expert guide, studying abroad shaped and grew us as aspiring professionals in our field and cultivated our cultural awareness.

We had the opportunity to meet with more than five agencies and attend 11 lectures, which equipped us to better understand Spain’s standing in the world as a leader in business, travel, arts, and culture. El Espacio in Barcelona is a digital creative agency focused on web design and advertising campaigns. Our group received great insight into how they managed several high profile public relations campaigns including Nespresso, FC Barcelona, and Desigual. In Madrid we visited The Cocktail, a multinational consultancy specializing in digital creation through content driven and cutting edge material. This agency challenged us to think outside the box. We talked about creativity and the campaign brainstorming processes. These visits affirmed my choice as a public relations major and ignited my excitement to embark in a career in this profession upon graduation.

Studying abroad for the first time, I was astounded by the history and architecture woven together so beautifully in Spain. We were encouraged to exchange our tourist mindset for the deeper reality of this remarkable country. As we visited places of significance such as the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, the Olympic Stadium, the Prado museum, Picasso’s Guernica, my appreciation grew.

Upon arriving at the Reina Sofía museum, Professor Medel gathered us outside and shared the story of a special painting. We listened intently and then slowly made our way inside the gallery. I viewed each of Pablo Picasso’s paintings, searching for understanding of the surrealist pieces, until we came upon the room in which the Guernica was displayed. Professor Medel instructed us to close our eyes and then led us right in front of the work. Picasso’s mural-sized oil painting depicts a powerful reaction to the Nazi’s devastating bombing on the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The painting was much larger than I expected, and I became intensely emotional.This marked the first time I felt and understood the sorrow and pain of a tragedy by examining a work of art. This experience impacted me profoundly as did the meaningful relationships I established during this trip.

Traveling alongside like minded students who possessed different strengths enriched our group dynamic. We stayed in hostels, ate meals, and continually explored the country together. A highlight was a day at PortAventura, the top amusement park in Europe. We participated in a Segway tour of Madrid. As a group we took flamenco dance lessons then watched a professional flamenco show in the traditional cave setting. Studying abroad grew us as individuals and we returned to Azusa more than just classmates but as a family.

Communication and public relations students interested in studying abroad during summer 2018, in Berlin, Madrid, and Amsterdam, visit here.

Abigail E. Peck '18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a public relations major and leadership minor.