A Journey of Self-Discovery & the Spirit of St. Ignatius: Arrupe College Students at IES Abroad Barcelona

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Ten students from Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago recently returned from its first-ever study abroad program, which was fully funded by IES Abroad. Given that this was the first time most of these students had ever been abroad, we were excited to reach out and hear what they had to say about their study abroad experience.

The program—which was designed by our Customized & Faculty-Led Programs team—was made up of 10 students and three faculty members, including Father Stephen Katsouros, S.J., who is the Dean and Executive Director at Arrupe. A two-year college of Loyola University Chicago, Arrupe College continues the Jesuit tradition of offering a rigorous liberal arts education to a diverse population with limited financial resources, many of whom are the first in their families to pursue higher education.

“We are delighted that the Arrupe students had a great experience participating in experiential learning, cultural immersion, and self-discovery," said Dr. Mary M. Dwyer, President and CEO of IES Abroad. "IES Abroad looks forward to our long-term commitment to Arrupe College, which will benefit numerous underrepresented students each year.”

The fully funded program was developed around Arrupe College’s sophomore seminar, Finding Purpose and Identity: A Journey in the Spirit of St. Ignatius, with students and faculty taking a 10-day tour of the route of St. Ignatius. The program wrapped up at the end of May, and given the students' satisfaction with the experience, IES Abroad will continue to fully fund it in years to come, enabling even more underrepresented students to study abroad who might not otherwise have the resources to do so.

"[The students] left their comfort zones, embraced a new opportunity, flourished in a new environment, and built community," said Father Katsouros. "IES Abroad made the dream into a reality."

Watch the video below that chronicles the students' journeys on Arrupe's first-ever study abroad program:

We reached out to four Arrupe students upon their return to ask how their study abroad experience went—read on to see what they had to say!


DARAYZHIA HENRY (pictured right)

Major: Liberal Arts



Major: Business Administration



Major: Behavioral Sciences


YAJAYRA JUAREZ (pictured right)

Major: English & Education

IES Abroad: How did your family and friends feel about you going abroad?

Darayzhia Henry (DH): My family was very happy for me. My grandma said that this will be a great experience for me, to go where her family originated from.

Yajayra Juarez (YJ): My family felt very happy about me going abroad because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They felt very happy because when they were my age they never got to study abroad, so they were glad that I was given such an opportunity!

IES Abroad: How did you share you experience with your friends and family upon returning?

Jacque Stefanic (JS): I sent my family, bosses, and friends postcards from Spain. When I got back, I was able to tell them about the places I was in when I met them. On top of that, I took many pictures and videos of the places we visited. There were more than enough pictures for my friends and family to see.

YJ: I shared my experience with others, like my friends and family, when I returned by realizing that I was given such a great opportunity. I felt very happy, and I encouraged everyone, especially other Arrupe students, if given the chance to study abroad to take it. I especially encouraged my younger sister to study abroad because it’s an experience that you will never forget—you will learn new things about other people and their culture, depending where you go. In Spain, I learned so much from the different dialects they used, the different cities, and its people that it made me want to go back and visit soon!

IES Abroad: How did IES Abroad support you before and during this experience?

DH: They made 100 percent sure I had every single thing I needed, and they were very supportive of me and patient while in the process.  

JS: IES Abroad was a huge help for preparing me for the Spain trip. Members of IES Abroad followed up with me via email on what I needed to complete prior to the trip, and if I had any questions they would respond very quick. IES Abroad also came to Arrupe for an info session that really helped because I was able get a lot of personal questions answered.

IES Abroad: What was your favorite part of your time abroad?

JS: My favorite part in Spain was our time in Barcelona. I loved the environment, it's a city that never sleeps, and there's always something to do. There was so much history. When we visited Sagrada Familia, that was probably the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I was so amazed at the design of the building and the fact that it is still being built to this day. It's just such an old place.

YJ: Overall, I really liked how united we were as a group of Arrupe students. When we would get free time, we went together to places and everyone stuck with one another. We explored together as a family.

IES Abroad: What did you find surprising or challenging at any point during the program?

Lourdes Covarrubias (LC): The food was surprising because I never tasted so many things in a span of 10 days. I tried everything, and I liked everything. I enjoyed everything.

DH: This was my first plane ride to Spain, and while it was very scary getting on and flying in the air, it was also super cool! The food and culture were great over there. I loved it because it was just super unique to me.

JS: Honestly, every part of being in Spain was a challenge. The biggest challenge was the language barrier. I only speak English, and it was very hard to communicate with others who didn't speak English well. But it was okay because my friends were really helping me throughout our time in Spain. The food was the best food I ever had. I was so amazed at how good the food tasted!

IES Abroad: Do you want to travel or study abroad again after this experience? Why or why not?

LC: Yes, I enjoyed every second of it, like the time I spent with IES Abroad and the tour guides. Everyone was very welcoming, and I enjoyed that no matter where we would go, the places we went to visit were beautiful. I would actually want to go back to Spain to explore the places that I was not able to visit during the 10 days. I would like to go back to Spain, but I would like to take my family to see the places I went to see so that they could experience the places I did.

YJ: I do want to study abroad again after this experience—I absolutely loved it! I loved the different cultures and the different traditions that I got to experience while in Spain so much that I would want to experience them again but in a different country. Thank you so much IES Abroad. I am truly grateful, and I can't wait to be able to apply for another study abroad program.

Learn more about our Customized & Faculty-Led Programs, or submit an Interest Form to start customizing your own program. You can also learn more about the Arrupe College program by reading IES Abroad to Fully Fund Arrupe College Study Abroad Program.

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