A Career Counselor’s Spring Break Abroad

How was your break?

My husband and I just returned from a two week vacation in Spain, Portugal and Morocco.  We were lucky that our trip was wedged between the end of the British Airways strike and the eruption of a volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland that has halted thousands of flights to and from Europe.

Several of the students that I counsel have asked how I enjoyed my “spring break”.  I always find this question somewhat amusing, as I don’t really get time off during spring break, or summer or winter break, for that matter.  At many colleges, administrators like me work throughout the entire calendar year, and so, if a student is looking for a career counseling appointment, they should know that a good time to come in for an appointment is during any of their breaks.  It tends to be a bit slower because either students don’t realize we’re open, or they are enjoying their breaks at home or on a sunny beach.

My trip abroad

I’d never been to Africa, so spending some time in Morocco was truly interesting from a variety of perspectives.  We visited Tetouan where our local guide Mohammed pointed out, among other things, typical employment for men and women.  I was most impressed by the silk weavers who made brightly colored caftans and the carpet makers who hand stitched amazingly intricate designs much too beautiful for walking on!  As an amateur quilter who also dabbles in knitting, I have much respect for these expert craft artists who make their living this way.

Cathedrals and mosques

The last time I travelled to Europe, I spent time in Italy visiting the usual tourist attractions, which inevitably includes cathedrals, chapels and churches of all shapes and sizes.  This trip also included quite a few huge cathedrals and mosques, including the great mosque of Cordoba and the cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo in Spain.  When I see structures like this made of brick and limestone, marble and gold, I can’t help but think of the work that it took to create such architectural and historical masterpieces.  And that they survive today amidst catastrophes is nothing short of miraculous.

Unemployment in Spain

As we travelled throughout the countryside in the Castilla-La Mancha and Andalucia regions of Spain, we saw endless fields of olive trees.  Our tour director Ercilia described the current economic situation in the country.  Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates – 19%, nearly twice as much as the average in the US.  She mentioned that in some places, like the small village of Alfarnate in Malaga, Andalucia, with a population of only 1400, most young adults leave the village to attend college and/or find jobs in more densely populated areas.  We stopped in Alfarnate for lunch and we ate at the home of a young couple whose view outside their dining room window was simply breathtaking.  The vegetable soup and the olive oil were breathtaking, as well.

The Fado

When we reached Portugal, we went to dinner at a local restaurant in Lisbon where we were entertained with music and dance.  Several performers sang the fado, a sort of mournful sounding song, which was often about love and kissing.  It was really wonderful, and one of the singers reminded me of a young Michael Buble.  At this point in our journey, I began to feel like I never wanted to leave.

Thanks for bearing with me as I recalled a few interesting tidbits about my trip abroad.  As a career counselor, I can’t help but notice how people make a living, and I can’t help but wonder how the fine artwork and architecture of a country comes to fruition.  I enjoy learning about the history and socioeconomic background of the places I am visiting.  If I can slowly make my way around the globe over the course of my lifetime, I will have accomplished one of my personal goals.


Nicole Anderson is an Assistant Director/Career Counselor for Tufts University Career Services. With fourteen years of experience in college career services, Nicole’s expertise includes career counseling undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from liberal arts, science, engineering, business, and education.

Related posts:

  1. Study Abroad & Career Exploration: The Perfect Pair
  2. Ready, Set, Go: Maximizing Your Spring Semester
  3. Study Abroad

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