Student Takeover: Skylar's Dreams Come True!

Programs for this blog post

Mediterranean Marine Ecosystems & Sustainability

Authored By:

Giancarlo Spero

One of our most enthusiastic and dedicated students Skylar Brustad took the time to share her story for everyone to enjoy. She had her heart set on studying abroad for six years! Here is what she has to say after finally living out her dream:


My name is Skylar Brustad, and this summer, I was given the opportunity to pursue a long-awaited dream to study abroad with CIEE. I am from Tri-Cities, Washington, and have never traveled outside of U.S. borders, let alone traveled by myself. I am a senior in high school and was able to change both of those facts this summer by traveling to Palma de Mallorca with CIEE to study Mediterranean Ecosystems and Sustainability. 

Finding CIEE was the first step toward the biggest accomplishment of my life. In the sixth grade, when I was about 12 or 13 years old, I came across a TikTok of a girl explaining how she studied abroad for free, on scholarships, to Tokyo, Japan for the summer. I clicked on her profile and immediately bookmarked CIEE’s website to my computer. Six years and multiple computers later, the website is still in my bookmarks. 

During the rest of my middle school years, I signed up for every email and every blog post that CIEE created. Each summer, I obsessed over the company’s Instagram seeing all these kids live my dream. Every Zoom meeting CIEE hosted with previous study abroad students I would sit and think about the big “what-if” while kids explained how studying abroad changed their lives.

The second I hit the summer of my freshman year I begged my parents to let me travel with CIEE. However, the reality of getting a full scholarship was not as easy as TikTok made it seem. So, my parents told me “Next summer.” Sophomore year came and went and I was told the same thing. My junior year things changed. During this time, I decided to finish my high school credits early and start my Associate’s Degree at the local community college since high school didn’t treat me well. My parents saw how I lacked basic social skills with kids my age and spent my time either studying or working. When I asked for the millionth time if I could go halfway across the world to pursue my love for science and travel, I was granted a yes! 

I was mainly inspired by my father to travel the world doing what I love. My grandparents encouraged this dream and always insisted Spain be my first international trip. So, I picked the two obvious options: Science and Spain. I applied for the Mediterranean Ecosystems and Sustainability program in Palma de Mallorca. I wrote and rewrote my application essays for months before finally submitting my application. When I found out I got in, my parents had to tell me to calm down. I was a mess of tears and smiles. I applied for a small scholarship and had the help of my extended family who supported this dream to pay for the trip. I picked up extra shifts at work to scrape up any extra spending money for my stay. Eventually, everything came together and I was ready to leave.

Now, after three weeks into this program, this experience was everything little me wanted and more. I have made so many friends and even earned a new foreign family because of my homestay. They told me and my roommates each night, “When you visit Spain, you can come home. Here, with your family.” Not only am I learning so much in class, but also on the street and even at the dinner table. I have made memories that every kid deserves to make. Studying abroad is truly so much more than I could’ve imagined it to be. So to those kids like younger me doubting this opportunity, take it. The world is your classroom, and CIEE made me see it.