Katie Irwin on the Transformative Power of Studying Abroad

Katie Irwin, director of study abroad and special programs at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, offers a window into the unique experience of living and studying in Valencia 

March 6, 2024

As director of study abroad and special programs at Berklee Valencia, Katie Irwin works with about 150 undergraduate students each semester who decide to take a leap of faith and study abroad in Spain.

"Some of my favorite moments are during orientation, when I get to meet all the new students and hear about why they chose to study abroad," she says. 

Many study abroad students find it difficult to articulate the precise reason behind their decision, but they often feel a deep-seated need to embark on this journey. Some seek solace in a smaller community, craving a respite from the hustle and bustle of Boston. For others, studying abroad fulfills a lifelong dream, one they've harbored since high school. Yet, regardless of their motivations, Irwin reveals that students' experiences prove to be rewarding in ways they may not have anticipated.

Studying abroad, even in a familiar setting like Berklee, initially presents a challenge. However, embarking on this journey compels students to step beyond their comfort zone, engaging in tasks and experiences that diverge from their usual routine. It requires problem-solving skills and the ability to devise innovative solutions for everyday obstacles. Through adversity, it fosters resilience, fortifying students' character and equipping them to confront future challenges with confidence. This journey grants participants the space to reconnect with their creative essence, fostering growth as a musician. Moreover, it immerses them in diverse communities, languages, and customs, broadening their horizons and enriching their perspective. Ultimately, studying abroad is a transformative experience that nurtures personal and professional development in ways that exceed expectations.

From Irwin's perspective, Berklee Valencia and the city of Valencia itself are ideal environments for the study abroad experience, especially for musicians. "Not only is Berklee Valencia a small, welcoming, and supportive community, but I think you will find Valencia the city to be similar," she said. The city is steeped in history and tradition while embracing the future. And music is at the heart of it all. Study abroad students will find plenty of music opportunities at Berklee Valencia as well as within the city. 

For a deeper dive into the culture, Irwin encourages students to take a Flamenco Ensemble with Sergio Martínez or Spanish Music, Culture, and Society with Cristobal Vogúmil Abellán de la Rosa to learn more about the music and culture of the region, just one of the many opportunities to broaden their musical and cultural perspectives.