We recently had the chance to connect with API Alumnus, Brandon Fong. Brandon studied abroad with API in Seville his spring semester. He is a Spanish language, Business and Applied Sciences major from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In addition, to a study abroad and travel enthusiast, Brandon is also impressively a published author! You can view his book here. This is Part II of a two-part series, you can read Part I here.
(API) Why did you choose your study abroad location?
(Brandon) My mom studied abroad in Spain when she was in her undergrad, and I have a Spanish minor. Studying in Spain was non-negotiable for me because I knew I wanted a place where I could improve my Spanish skills. When it came to choosing Sevilla, I wanted a place that wasn’t a massive city (like Barcelona or Madrid) but still had a strong culture. I knew Sevilla was very proud of their culture and had a rich history — so Sevilla was the logical choice for me!
(API) Where are you from? How was it different than your host city?
(Brandon) I am from Brookfield, Wisconsin and living in Sevilla was an entirely new world. I loved the fact that I didn’t need to depend on a car to get around, and that I could be at the heart of the downtown area with a short 10-minute bike ride.
The Spanish siesta took me awhile to get used to, specifically because I kept trying to go to stores during siesta time and everything was closed! Also, as a Wisconsinite, 65-degree temperatures means shorts and T-shirt weather. Though in Sevilla where 100 degree days are the norm, they looked at me like I was a freak, so that was funny!
(API) What were the courses like?
(Brandon) My favorite class that I took was my Tapas class! We got to learn how to make tapas, and everything was taught in Spanish so we had a great opportunity to learn more about the culture through food. Besides that, all my professors were friendly and I didn’t think anything was that shockingly different than what you would expect from the US.
The only thing that I wish was different was the fact that most of the classes were with other American students, and I wanted more opportunities to meet locals and other international students.
(API) What was your favorite excursion or cultural activity?
(Brandon) My favorite cultural activity was by far La Feria! I ended up becoming friends with a group of locals who took the time to show me around and give me a true feria experience. They brought me into their private casetas, and taught me how to dance Sevillana!
(API) What would you tell someone who is considering a study abroad experience?
(Brandon) DO IT. I believe that everyone needs to have a study abroad experience. It can be challenging to find a time like this in your life, when you just uproot yourself with little to no consequences and live in an entirely different country. After studying abroad, you will realize how little you know and how much more there is to learn. There are so many fulfilling ways to live a rich life, and growing up in one place without much change never really challenges that.
Studying abroad will give you an entirely new lens with which to view the world, and I think everyone needs that — especially if we want to learn to be more understanding of each other.
(API) What have you been up to since you’ve returned stateside?
(Brandon) My experience in Spain was so amazing that it inspired a whole bunch of life-changing events! First, after I returned from Spain on the Gilman scholarship, I continued blogging on my website at brandon-fong.com. What started out as a small project while abroad actually inspired me to write a book!
In November 2016, 6 months after I returned from Spain, I published my book which ended up becoming a bestseller in 4 different categories on Amazon, got featured in the Huffington Post, and received reviews from Kevin Harrington, original shark on Shark Tank.
Also, my experience was so amazing that I actually ended up studying abroad again — this time in Sweden!
(API) Do you have plans for international experiences in the future? Where will you go next?
(Brandon) Yes! I’m now addicted, and I want to go to some destinations outside of Europe the next time I go abroad. High on my list is going to Japan, and I have a goal of going to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!