Alumni Spotlight: Lydia Mazzoli

Stories that Shaped Us: Embrace the Discomfort of Studying Abroad

Lydia Mazzoli is an ISA Málaga alumna and ISA/TEAN Global Ambassador at University of South Carolina whose experience abroad during Spring 2022 helped push her out of her comfort zone and immersed her in Muslim and Andalusian culture.

We reached out to learn more about why she chose to go abroad with ISA Spain and how her experience abroad has impacted her long-term. Check out her unique story below and hear her advice for others wanting to follow a similar path!

What inspired you to study abroad and why did you choose Malaga? 

LM: My desire to continuously be pushed out of my comfort zone prompted me to study abroad. I believe the best way to learn is by doing and jumping in head-first. I have spent the past ten years studying the Spanish language and culture surrounding it, and I chose Málaga because I wanted an original, immersive experience. The classes that were offered all included a cultural focus, allowing me to learn about the culture and history that I was living in. Málaga is not a typical tourist city for Americans, and it offered a sense of authenticity that I found very intriguing. On the “Costa del Sol,” Málaga gets over 300 days of sunshine and gives you both the Mediterranean experience as well the Andalusian culture. Málaga itself proved to be a very artsy, creative city, something that only enhanced the experience.

El Caminito del Rey, a natural gorge in the province of Malaga

Do you have a favorite story or adventure from your time abroad?

LM: Andalucía and Spain as a whole has a history filled with Arab and Muslim influence. Málaga has old Arab baths that embody the ritual of purification through water and steam. These baths are all underground, lit by candles along the dark hallways, rooms, and pools. My friends and I went to experience these baths and for 2 hours we were unplugged from the outside world and immersed in the relaxation that comes with Arab tradition. Without phones and watches we had no idea what time it was, and I just wandered around from room to room hopping from bath to bath. All of a sudden, I looked around and I was the only one in all of the rooms, and the workers had already taken all of the towels. I was frantically running around the dark hallways and rooms trying to find the exit in my bathing suit and my friends. Turns out the workers walked around telling everyone their time was up, but they had skipped me so I was just hanging out in the baths after hours! I eventually made it outside and found my phone that had almost 10 missed calls from my friends. Either way, the vibes at the baths were immaculate and full of history – allowing me to apply everything I was learning in my society & culture class, as well as my Art & Architecture history class!

Top of Mount Gibralfaro and Gibralfaro Castle overlooking the city and ports

Did your time studying abroad influence your professional development? If so, how?

LM: My time abroad gave me the confidence to pursue more internationally focused professional experiences. ISA encouraged me to think in-depth about my cross-cultural experiences and understand how people from different cultures interact. It taught me that there is more than one solution to every problem, all that is needed is perspective. More personally, this made me more comfortable in ambiguous situations, inspiring me to leave my comfort zone and take on challenges with confidence and fortitude.

Courtyard of El Museo de los Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Art)

What do you do now? How has your time studying abroad and working with ISA impacted your professional career and goals?

LM: Currently, I am working for a company this summer headquartered in London. My daily life includes influence from executives abroad and conversing with people from different backgrounds. Studying abroad helped me in overcoming imposter syndrome, giving me the courage to pursue opportunities way out of my comfort zone – something that is very important to me as I determine my next step after graduation and into the real world.

What would you tell students are on the fence about studying abroad?

LM: While studying abroad is an anxiety-prone process, the hardest part is getting on the plane. Leaving the country that you know so well can be very daunting, but there are thousands of students that do it every year, providing you with a community that can only be found overseas. While it is a very independent experience, it is experiencing this independence that can free you from so many obstacles – both mental and physical.

City view from Mount Gibralfaro and the Gibralfaro Castle

Curious to hear more from ISA/TEAN alumni? Read more blogs from Spain alumni or explore how other alumni made the leap to study abroad and chose the program that best fits their academic and cultural needs.

Inspired by Lydia’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!

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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