Stories that Shaped Us: Besties Abroad
Kereine Ngoungui-Malemba and Marisol Jara-Amparan are ISA Seville alumni and ISA/TEAN Global Ambassadors at Denver University whose experience abroad during Fall 2021 brought them close to both Spanish culture and each other.
We reached out to them to learn more about why they chose to go abroad with ISA Spain and what it was like to travel the world with a best friend by their side. Check out their unique story below and hear their advice for others wanting to follow a similar path!
What inspired each of you to go abroad, and why Spain?
Kereine: “When I was about 12 years old my sister and I were watching this international channel which offered programs from all over the world, and this specific one was talking about foreign students in Japan. We sat in awe and excitement just thinking about doing this same experience, and ever since then, studying abroad has always been one of my goals for college. I’ve also always wanted to travel the world and going abroad was one way to start traveling internationally. I chose Spain because Spanish is my second major so I intended to finish it there. Also, I wanted to strengthen my language proficiency.”
Marisol: “What inspired me to study abroad was actually my friends. I think I was close to the deadline for my school study abroad application and I applied right before. I was worried about COVID, but I was going to give myself the opportunity if I was able to go and do it. In the end I decided that if it did not happen it was okay, but I was giving myself the chance.”
Where did you meet? Were you friends before you went abroad to Spain? Were you roommates while abroad, too?
Kereine: “We met freshman year of college through a program and so by the time Spain came around we were already friends. Due to that, we decided to room together because we already knew each other. Marisol was more open to it than I was because I knew that it isn’t always a good idea to room with your friends, so I had my doubts.”
What advice do you have for friends wanting to room together while abroad?
Marisol: “I would say to be aware of each other’s habits when you go. You will be living together for the next 3-4 months, and in our case, we have a shared room. Being aware of each other’s habits will also allow you to be a bit more open minded when rooming together and respectful of each other’s living spaces.”
Kereine: “First and foremost, take a deep breath because you are going to need it! I think that rooming together was one of the most challenging experiences during my time abroad. Being friends and living together is a whole other topic in itself. In the beginning, it’s great, but then it gets harder and you start to clash about certain habits, the state of the room, and your personalities. Being in that space together means that you will have to communicate and voice out your mind in the best way that you can, so that the other person is aware and can work with you to make sure that you are also comfortable and heard. It’s challenging but very rewarding because you will learn a lot about each other. It will definitely bring you closer to each other as you experience life abroad together. Also meet other friends too, it’s great for everyone so you don’t feel that you have to stick with one person!”
What did you learn about yourself through these experiences and how did your time abroad impact your understanding of the world?
Kereine: “I learned that the world is much bigger than we think it is, and that there is more for us to explore. I learned more outside of the classroom about history and culture than I ever did in school. I understood finally that learning happens by doing, exploring, and becoming comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Marisol: “For myself, I learned that there are so many things that I am open to trying, that I had never thought about before. This would go to trying new foods, speaking to new and different people, as well as learning about topics that I never knew I would be interested in. It impacted my way of understanding the world, in the way that I am not more curious than ever to explore, ask questions, and wonder.”
What is one of your favorite stories/memories together from abroad?
Marisol: “My favorite memory of us abroad is when we travelled to Rome together, it was bittersweet because it was our last trip before coming home. It is my favorite, because we just had the best time, and everything kept us in awe of the city and history around every corner. It was such an experience and I am happy that it happen with Kereine.”
Kereine: “Our first trip out of Spain to Paris, when I visited my twin sister who was also studying there. Marisol and I walked by the River Seine on a beautiful and warm afternoon, captivated by the architecture and the views. Every so often, we would stop to remind ourselves that we were in Paris, and then we would continue walking, because there was more to see and we were dying to see it.”
Was there anything you did while you were in Seville just as besties?
Marisol: “Since we lived together, I think we were pretty much together all the time which is crazy to think about now, because we have such different schedules and living in different spaces. Every once in a while we would go get a snack together, dessert after lunch or before dinner, and it could be a coffee or ice cream and it was great to just sit on a bench and watch Sevillians go about their afternoon.”
You’re both ISA/TEAN Global Ambassadors now – what is it like working together?
Kereine: “It’s a nice experience to bond over our time there again and work with the same passion.”
You both go to the University of Denver – any advice for students at DU wanting to go abroad?
Marisol: “I would say that for a DU student to go abroad it is super easy and super doable. There are so many opportunities, that if eligible, help you go abroad. I encourage DU students, specifically first generation students, that I know work hard to apply and go, because its not an impossible dream.”
Kereine: “If you get the chance please go! Even if you have traveled, it’s not the same as living there and going to school there. You will have a totally different yet wonderful experience!”
Curious to hear more from ISA/TEAN alumni? Watch Marisol appear on the “Know Before You Go” panel and Kereine appear on the “Black Students Abroad” panel as a part of the ISA Advice from Alumni Series on our YouTube Channel!
Inspired by Kereine and Marisol’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in a study abroad program? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!