Pre-departure blog, Madrid, España!




Hello, my name is Christian Lezama, and I am a first-generation Latino pursuing higher education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I am double majoring in Environmental Science and Architecture & Urban History. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to study abroad at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). It is the ideal setting to learn Spanish as it has numerous environmental science course offerings and a vibrant campus community of over 60,000 students. The large student enrollment at UCM increases the likelihood of establishing global connections. The campus organizations are more diverse and established by the domestic and international student body. The opportunity to diversify and interact with students, who will go on to work in a wealth of different global industries, would allow me to create a worldwide contact base which comes with many advantages that can help me throughout life and my career.

I chose this immersive Spanish program because it will help me gain fluency which would ultimately help me break down barriers. I grew up in a Spanish-speaking household because my parents were not proficient in English due to their low socioeconomic status growing up. Now that I am in college and away from home, I rarely utilize Spanish and this is evident when I am communicating with my family because I can’t find the right words to express myself as I would in English. However, I greatly value being bilingual, especially because it is a tool to connect with my cultural roots. For that reason, I am proactively pursuing this opportunity as it would enable me to immerse myself in my first language, and better communicate with my family.

Moving toward my endeavors, I will pursue my academic interests and professional career in environmental policy and urban planning. Studying abroad would allow me to gain a global perspective on environmental issues and solutions. Although I have taken extensive environmental planning courses regarding U.S. federal regulations, it would be beneficial to learn more about how our system compares to other countries. I am interested in learning more about the European Union’s environmental policy programs and objectives because I plan on acquiring a career in the federal workforce after graduation. Therefore, I would like to provide global insight when brainstorming solutions to environmental issues. Climate change mitigation requires international cooperation to be effective; thus, having a versatile understanding of environmental policy would make me qualified to perform transnational work regarding these global issues.

As a first-generation professional, I am committed to serving my community with the knowledge and skills I have acquired throughout my higher education. I will advocate for underprivileged and underrepresented people. To effectively do this, I would like to finetune my Spanish communication skills to be inclusive and reach a wider audience. A key lesson that I learned about working in public service is the importance of community outreach and transparency. Many environmental planning careers require compliance with state and federal environmental policies. These policies comprise a public scoping process where a proponent aims to provide an overview of the proposed expansion project, present proposed action, gather issues and concerns, and other relevant information to provide the scope of work and terms of reference for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement. Community engagement is crucial to maintain transparency and prevent litigation. Unfortunately, many environmental injustice issues stem from the inability of underrepresented groups to advocate for themselves due to accessibility constraints such as language barriers or conflicting work schedules. I would like to ease the process of public participation and encourage minority groups to take part in community development. Improving my Spanish communication skills and learning environmental science terminology in Spanish would allow me to facilitate communication between the agency I work for and the community.

If you would like to follow me throughout my journey abroad, feel free to check out my blog on the FEA website!