Headshot of Fiona Kristo

Fiona Kristo (MBA ’23)

As the spring semester came to a close and thousands of students graduated from Michigan State University, my classmates and I began one of the most exciting experiences of our MBA program. For the past week, we had the unique opportunity to study abroad in Spain, visiting both Barcelona and the capital, Madrid. I was beyond excited for this as travel has always been a large part of my life. Growing up, my family made it a point to vacation together and explore new states and countries every year. However, like many of my peers, my travel essentially halted throughout the pandemic, making this one of my first opportunities in years to visit another country.

Although our time abroad was limited, there was never a lack of activities and events to attend. Upon our arrival in Barcelona, we were taken on a tour of the city, exploring different neighborhoods such as the Gothic Quarter and El Born. It was amazing to not only learn about the city’s rich history while walking through it but to also understand how the Catalonia region has developed into its current geopolitical and social climate. In fact, one of the most fascinating aspects of Barcelona was the diversity of its landmarks and industries. While many neighborhoods in the towns surrounding East Lansing look quite similar, each neighborhood in Barcelona had its own unique atmosphere and character — from the stunning architecture of La Sagrada Familia to the extensive Port of Barcelona. The latter was especially interesting to me as one of my concentrations is supply chain management. Throughout our time at the port, my classmates and I were given an informative boat tour and later had an in-depth discussion with the port’s management and logistics experts. It felt quite rewarding to be able to apply the terminology and knowledge that I gained in the classroom to their operations and logistics planning. This was the first of many NGO/corporate visits that truly gave us a new perspective on international business. It was amazing to meet with experts in such a wide variety of industries — from technology to sustainability to entrepreneurship.

MSU Broad Full-Time MBA class of 2023 students pose for a group photo in Spain

Broad Full-Time MBA Class of 2023 students studying abroad in Spain

After spending the first half of our education abroad experience in Barcelona, we took the train to Madrid and explored many areas, including Plaza de España, Gran Vía, Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real, Puerta de Sol and the Catedral de la Almudena. We were lucky enough to arrive during the festival of San Isidro, Madrid’s patron saint, and experienced the energetic atmosphere as locals celebrated throughout the city. I was quite surprised at how walkable the capital was, even after the festivities concluded. The streets were easy to navigate, and a plethora of restaurants, shops and parks were located only a few minutes from our hotel. This allowed my classmates and me to experience a variety of local cuisines, with our dinners often lasting late into the evening.

While I could have happily spent another week in Spain, I am beyond thankful for the time that I got. Studying abroad has always been a goal of mine, and there was no better way to conclude the first year of my MBA at Michigan State. I found it incredibly rewarding to visit so many important sites, meet with incredible speakers and truly broaden my frame of reference by immersing myself in a new culture and country. Though it may take some time, I plan to be part of the majority of Spain’s tourists who visit the country multiple times throughout their life.