Junior Cindy Torres has embraced new experiences since arriving at IU Northwest
Cindy Torres has experienced many firsts since enrolling at Indiana University Northwest.
The junior Schererville native is a first-generation college student pursuing a business administration degree with minors in marketing and Spanish. During her summer break, she crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, spending nearly six weeks studying overseas at Universidad de Alcalá in Madrid, Spain.
“Going to school in Spain was very different from what I have experienced here,” Torres said. “The architecture was very historic, and one entire wall was windows that let in a ton of light. We would have 30-minute breaks between classes and often we’d walk to the plaza to get coffee and pastries from a bakery and then head back to school.”
Torres, who earned the prestigious Rotary Summer Study Abroad Scholarship that paid for her overseas adventure, is the youngest of nine children.
She was born to immigrant parents — her father is from Puerto Rico, and her mother hails from Mexico. While she spent time in both her parents’ homelands, she found more differences than similarities between the North American and European Spanish-speaking cultures.
“The people in Puerto Rico are super friendly. It’s a very slow pace of life. You can be walking down the street, and people greet you even if they don’t know you. Mexico is very similar,” Torres said. “I guess I was expecting this in Spain, but people here were more reserved.”
Gaining perspectives from around the world
Torres’ time abroad also gave her insight into the human realities behind the global headlines. She encountered several Ukrainian refugees and had an opportunity to speak with two of them.
“It’s hard to realize you’re sitting next to somebody who’s experiencing an extremely challenging and difficult time in their life,” Torres said. “They’re being forced from their home into countries that they know little about the culture or language. Their families are being broken up.
“To hear the story of a kid who is my age was so eye-opening. I could see how so many lives have been totally wrecked in just over a year. … It's so hard for so many people.”
The opportunity to study abroad ultimately helped Torres achieve a broader, more holistic worldview by providing her an opportunity to immerse herself in a new culture.
She appreciated the role families played in one another’s lives, and how grown children would frequently take care of their aging parents. The Spanish seem to work to live, she noticed, rather than vice versa — and they seem happier because of it. She was grateful to bring these lessons back home to her life and studies in Indiana.
“Spain is known for having some of the longest life spans, so maybe we should be looking at what they’re doing,” Torres suggested.
While most of her time was spent in Spain, she did manage to sneak away to Paris, where she saw French landmarks like Les Jardins, Arc de Triomphe and, of course, the Eiffel Tower.
The Spanish destinations Torres and her classmates visited included Madrid, Barcelona, Cordoba and Toledo. Toledo’s past is deliciously rich with history, perhaps due in part to what Roman historian Livy (59 B.C. – 17 A.D.) described as “urbs parva, sed loco munita,” which translates to “a small city, but fortified by location.”
“The streets reminded me of Italy, but it was almost like a medieval town,” Torres remarked about Toledo. “The architecture was one thing, but then there are so many stories of knights, swords, gold and jewelry.”
The crown jewel Torres now takes back with her to the States is the great memories, opportunities and lessons learned while abroad. Torres is back on campus this fall, as she continues pursuing her world-class IU degree.