Alumni Spotlight: Katie Ruth


Katie created such a close bond with her Spanish host family and their golden retriever, Kenzo Españolo, that she decided to adopt her own Kenzo back in the USA!

Kate and baby Kenzo.

What was it like developing a relationship with your host family?

Bonding with my host family was one of the most special parts of my study abroad experience.  I was nervous to meet them at first; just thinking of invading their home for months made me anxious!  That quickly went out the window after the first night in Granada, when we had a delicious traditional Spanish Paella and shared stories.  We were more similar from the get go than you could have imagined. One thing in particular that was so neat about my family was their yellow lab, Kenzo Españolo.  Leaving my two dogs back home in the USA was so hard, but having Kenzo in Spain was such a comfort! He would siesta with me in the afternoons, and even walk to school with me some mornings.  

Kate and Kenzo Españolo

Tell us more about Kenzo Españolo!

Kenzo was hands down the coolest dog I’d ever met.  From the moment I met my host family, Kenzo and I became best friends.  When I was unpacking, he helped me by rooting around in my suitcase. When I was studying, he would lay on the couch with me and nose my textbook.  When I wanted to walk around the city and explore, he was a faithful companion. Watching the World Cup with Kenzo was also quite fun, as he could cheer (bark) along with us!  He was just as important as my host parents and siblings were to my experience in Granada.

Kenzo Españolo the foot warmer
Kenzo Españolo and Kate study.

Once back in the USA, you adopted your own golden retriever – Kenzo Americano! How did that happen? 

My host family and I bonded so strongly from the start, we knew we would stay in contact for the rest of our lives.  One evening when we were walking Kenzo and going for some gelato, I made a comment about getting my own yellow lab for back home and naming him Kenzo Americano.  We all fell in love with the idea. Fast forward 6 months from my return to America, and I have a beautiful yellow lab puppy in my arms, you guessed it, named Kenzo Americano.  He is the “shop dog” at my family’s foundry. He is everyone’s best friend, unless he feels he needs to protect us. Then he will bark at you, but still wag his tail because he’s just putting on a show.  I send pictures back and forth to my host family of Kenzo Americano and I get photos back of Kenzo Espanolo. It made the family we created even stronger to have our dogs in common. It’s just a name, it’s just a specific breed of dog, but I think it represents so much more.  This ISA experience not only drastically improved my spanish skills, it also gave me a new overseas family.

Kenzo Americano in the car

How has studying abroad impacted your growth as a person? What did you learn about yourself in Spain?

Studying abroad helped shape the person I am today. About a year before I left for Spain, I was in a terrible car wreck.  My back was broken and I suffered a traumatic brain injury. It’s safe to say my entire life crumbled before my eyes, and as a 20 year old college Junior, I was certain my life as I had planned it would never happen.  And what a blessing that was, because studying abroad was nowhere in my life plan. Galavanting around Spain, renting a car and driving wherever my heart told me to go on the weekends, catching weekend flights to wherever had the best deal, meeting people from around the world at places like the Sagrada Familia and Gibraltar helped to show me that just because my life’s path may have changed trajectory, it was far from over.  My Spanish skills improved (which I use every day at my job), I met friends from all over the world, and I got a second family and a new dog. How cool is that?

Kate on the Andalucian coast, driving with no destination.
Kate at La Sagrada Familia

How did studying abroad influence your career?

I work as an account executive for Phoenix Casting and Machining and handle all foundry sales. Many people I work with speak only Spanish, so I translate all the time in a variety of situations- be it staff meetings, instructions, or appointments. While I haven’t worked with any foreign companies yet who don’t have people who speak English, it’s probably coming any day now. I love that study abroad taught me so much about myself and my potential as an employee.  Being bilingual is such an asset in today’s global economy!
Kenzo Americano at work!

Katie Ruth is an alumna of Hastings College. She studied with ISA in Granada, Spain.

Interview conducted by Jessica Terrell, an ISA Alumni Relations Coordinator.

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