Coming from one of Europe’s largest cities to study through an international exchange program, Ignacio Bonet Ybarra did not expect to end up in a small, rural community in Missouri. But since his arrival in Cape Girardeau this past August, he has come to cherish the friendly atmosphere of Smalltown, U.S.A.
Ignacio, an advertising major, is from Madrid, Spain, and is studying at Southeast Missouri State University through an exchange program the University has with Universidad Antonio de Nebrija in Madrid. Each year, Southeast sends a handful of students to study at the Universidad in Madrid, and madrileños (people from Madrid) come to Southeast.
“I always wanted to study in America for the experience and to improve my English. I had this exchange program opportunity, so I took it,” Ignacio said.
“It is an opportunity students have to take. You learn a lot of things from other cultures, universities and courses, and all these things will help you in life. You can learn another language, meet a lot of people from all over the world and, of course, have a really great time,” Ignacio said. “It also helps you to be more open-minded, tolerant and cultured.”
Because he will only be in America for two semesters, Ignacio says it’s important that he takes advantage of his time. He has traveled to St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., Boston and Washington, D.C. He said he has also visited the homes of some of his friends he has met at Southeast who live in smaller towns in Missouri and Illinois.
He said his most unforgettable time at Southeast thus far was Homecoming weekend as well as the football games.
“I had a lot of great moments that I’ll never forget, but if I have to pick one, I would choose Homecoming weekend. It was very fun,” he said.
The things Ignacio enjoys the most at Southeast, besides the people, are the things that differ from his university in Madrid.
“It’s so different from what I’m used to. People here are friendlier and more open in general, which helped me feel at home. I really like the campus life: the rec center, the sports facilities and dining halls, the fact that all the students live together in a small community on campus,” Ignacio said. The university life is much different from my student life back in Madrid.”
He notes other differences between life in America and that of Spain: “America is very big. Here you need a car to go everywhere. I walk or take public transportation in Madrid, and the food is much different in Spain. America is also much more multicultural than Spain. The classes are more practical here as well.”
While Ignacio says he misses many things of his home in Madrid, including his family, friends, the food and the city life, he says he is happy and fortunate to be studying at Southeast.
“I really like it and am having a nice experience. I’m improving my English a lot and am taking interesting courses where I’m learning a lot about my major,” Ignacio says. “I’m meeting many people from American and all over the world, and it’s helping me to be more sociable and tolerant.”