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Ready for the Workplace, Ready for the World: A Lander Education Takes Rubio from Plaza Mayor to Times Square

Maria Rubio at graducationLike her fellow Lander University alumni, recent graduate Maria Rubio is ready for a whole world of exciting possibilities.

Her time at Lander led her to earn, not one, but two bachelor’s degrees - one in psychology, and the other in Spanish. Her college career included a host of leadership opportunities in several of Lander’s student organizations. Yet, it was probably her “break-away” experience for the Honors College that played the most important role in shaping Rubio for her next chapter in life. During her junior year, she chose to spend a semester studying abroad at Tandem Escuela Internacional in Madrid.

“When the opportunity came to go to Madrid, Spain, I knew I had to take it,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Rubio’s experience abroad is the perfect example of how Lander’s Study Abroad program enriches a student’s college education. For a whole semester, Rubio not only earned course credit towards her four-year degree, but also navigated a new city, solved problems, met and interacted with new people, and fully immersed herself in a new culture. Meanwhile, as a Spanish major, Rubio was exposed to the unique distinctions in Spanish dialect. Rubio is fluent in Spanish herself, but understanding the variations to the Spanish language spoken in Spain was an important lesson in linguistics. It’s something you can talk about in a Spanish class, but is much more meaningful when experiencing it in real-life conversation.

Her time abroad allowed her to practice using Spanish every day along with her classmates and new friends. “There were times where I was very confused on what was going on,” she said. “However, this allowed me to learn more about the Spanish culture and even catch on to some of their slang.”

She loved her classes at Tandem Escuela as well. One focused on improving her Spanish reading, writing and speaking skills. Another class focused on a variety of topics, from music, to architecture, to sports. But her school days would almost always end with cultural activities, such as visiting museums, markets, neighborhoods and churches. Some days, she explored on her own, but she was regularly joined by the friends she made while abroad, “who were always up for an adventure,” Rubio said.

“Our travels were always filled with laughter, wonder and lots of tiredness from walking everywhere,” she added. “I came home a different person, more open to trying new things and interested in seeing more of the world.”

Maria Rubio in Times SquareIt wasn’t long after her time in Spain that Rubio was able to start traveling again. In just two short weeks from returning home to the United States, Dr. Carlos Mentley, Lander’s director of Study Abroad, called to ask her if she would be willing to take another adventure. This time, Rubio would be representing Tandem Escuela in New York City by speaking with teachers and administrators at local schools to promote study abroad partnerships. “This was an amazing opportunity where I got to network and explore a new city, and have a little piece of Spain back, which I had been missing terribly,” she said.

Rubio was a natural fit to serve as an ambassador for studying abroad. At Lander, she served as a peer leader for the LINK program, a presidential ambassador, president of Animal Advocates, a teaching assistant and executive chair of the Honors College Leadership Council. In April, Rubio received the Psychology Discipline Award from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and the Spanish Discipline Award from the College of Arts and Humanities.

Her study abroad experience in Madrid allowed Rubio to add “world traveler” to her already impressive resume. From the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, to Times Square in New York City, her study abroad adventure is one that clearly articulates the benefits of breaking away for a summer, a semester or even a year.

“I had to learn to plan, budget, be flexible, communicate efficiently and think critically when in a new city,” Rubio said. “These are all skills that will allow me to work effectively in any workplace. I was also immersed in the language day in and out. It allowed me to practice and improve my Spanish speaking skills, which I plan on using in my professional career to reach and impact more people.”

Learn more about Lander’s Study Abroad programs by visiting