Profile: Iesha Thomas
Iesha Thomas never expected to be taking her first out-of-the-country trip so soon in her life. But, when the opportunity to study abroad in Spain last summer presented itself, the soon-to-be 22-year-old knew it was time to spread her wings and fly.
A McComb senior pursuing a double-major in political science/pre-law and international business (economics and Spanish), her goal is to become fluent in Spanish and pursue an international career in law.
After setting her heart on the University of Granada in Spain, Thomas began seeking ways to fund her trip. "It wasn't as easy as 'Let's just go study abroad,'" she admitted. "You really have to prepare, but time management is a big part of my life."
In addition to being a full-time student, Thomas works on-campus as a Hathorn Hall information assistant and off campus as a waitress at Starkville's Central District Grill. She also serves as treasurer for two MSU organizations, I.D.E.A.L. Woman and Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
After successfully obtaining scholarships from the College of Business and Office of Study Abroad, Thomas embarked for Europe on what would be her first-ever airplane ride.
"I was thrilled, nervous and scared," she recalled. "It was 16 hours total, and I got to ride on a jet and two other planes. The jet was shaky, and I was covering my eyes the whole time. Taking off and landing was the worst part. I made it through, though!"
At Granada, she enrolled in a 12-hour credit course that, while initially challenging, helped her become more confident hearing, reading and speaking what is, worldwide, the native tongue of more than 400 million and a second language to 60 million.
"I would get headaches sometimes because I would listen and try to process a little chunk of Spanish at a time, but as time progressed, I was able to listen and actually understand the Spanish itself," she said. "At the 'residencia' where I stayed in Granada with my housemom and her two children, we had this rule that we would only speak to each other in Spanish. I actually started thinking in Spanish."
As part of her expanded education, Thomas had the opportunity to meet people from many walks of life with whom she remains in contact. The experience also involved visits to other major cities in the country, including Cadiz, Madrid, San Jose, Seville, and Toledo.
"I am an open-minded person, so I tried everything because I wanted the full experience," she said. "I participated in flamenco dancing, and actually got to eat squid and octopus."
Of those cephalopod meals, she commented, with a laugh, "They were not that bad, but I wouldn't eat them again."
Thomas is unhesitating in urging "every person, young or old, to study abroad at least once in their life. "I had to use my knowledge to get around and survive on my own in a foreign place with a completely different language and lifestyle," she said.
"Having the skill and mindset to adapt to different environments is an asset," she proclaimed, in encouraging others to follow in her footsteps.
Proudly wearing her University of Granada pullover to MSU classes, Thomas said her sojourn on the Iberian Peninsula "still feels like a dream sometimes.
"It's unbelievable to think that I've been there and I actually went to school there. I want to keep branching out and experiencing the world and different cultures. Going abroad again definitely is in my future."Writer: Sasha Steinberg | Photo: Megan Bean
Next week … Libba Andrews !