The Start Of Something New

A few hundred dollars. A flight to San Francisco. Countless emails to the Consulate. After all of that and more, I still could have turned back. I could have “missed” my flight and returned home to Seattle. I could have given up before even starting. However, I am not a quitter.

Barcelona has always held a special place in my heart. As someone who frequently has entire dreams in Spanish, I had always wondered when I would be able to pisar la madre patria’s (step on the motherland’s) soil for the first time. After a study abroad in Europe in 2009, I decided I was going to visit Greece and one city in Spain. After much debate between Madrid and Barcelona, I chose the latter.

Since then, the beautiful Mediterranean city has called my name countless times. Whether it was serving a two-year mission for my Church, work, or pleasure, I have been fortunate to gaze upon the Sagrada Familia’s walls, tapaear with my friends, and explore every callejón, time and time again. Now, I am here to get a Master in Design and Direction of Internet Projects from ELISAVA – Escola Superior de Disseny.

Initially, my decision to go back to grad school was met with mixed emotions. My closest friends and family members regularly asked, “Are you sure this what you want to do?”, “Wouldn’t it be best to study here in the States?”, “Shouldn’t you have a few more years of experience under your belt before you make this switch?” Five months ago, I would have answered, “Not 100%,” “Possibly,” and “You’re right, it certainly couldn’t hurt to work another year or two.”

If anyone were to ask me now, here are a few of the reasons why I am pursuing a master’s at ELISAVA:

The Program, Prestige of the School & The Professors

First and foremost, ELISAVA is consistently ranked among the top 100 schools of design and architecture in Europe. The university has established agreements with more than 70 schools worldwide. Some of my professors include:

  • DAVID CASACUBERTA. Philosopher and expert in digital culture. Lecturer at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and evaluator of EU-funded E-content programs.

  • FERNANDO GAVARRÓN. Engineer. Web analytics and optimization. Google Analytics consultant for Metriplica and usability consultant for Multiplica.

  • ARIEL GUERSENZVAIG. Interaction designer and responsible for interaction and graphic design at ELISAVA. Has been a partner in Claro Studio and Multiplica.

  • ROSA LLOP. Designer and teacher at ELISAVA (University Pompeu Fabra). Research in visual language, media software, design culture, and ICT.

Some of the program’s main objectives are:

  • Providing the necessary interdisciplinary skills to be able to design and implement websites and functional apps based on the user and his needs.

  • Getting to know the strategies that make the brand positioning possible and establishing collective intelligence processes in the project development.

  • Understanding the own features of the Internet technologies in relation to different platforms, especially mobile phone devices in order to make the most of its potential in the service creation.

There’s More Out There Than The United States

I will always be proud to be an American citizen. However, I am often disappointed when I meet people who believe the United States is the only country in the entire world. Want to know the secret to excelling in the workplace? Pack your bags, travel, and experience new cultures. Today, companies fall into one of two camps: 1) they are global or 2) are planning to become global. If you don’t believe globalization is happening, it is about time you wake up and smell the roses.

By the end of my program, I will be able to offer a unique perspective that my fellow American colleagues won’t be able to. I will understand what resonates the most with Spaniards, and in a broader sense, Europeans.

Want to grow? Challenge yourself.

I am strong believer that if you want to grow personally and professionally, you must push yourself and do something bold every day. If I had never left my comfort zone, I would have never experienced failure and would still be dreaming of “what could be”.

How do I plan to challenge myself in Spain? For one, my graduate degree is 100% in Spanish. My grammar is a bit rusty, but I am confident that I will succeed. Another one of my goals is to learn Catalan. With a busy schedule this may be difficult, but I know it will open many doors for me here in Catalunya.


When I decided that I wanted to pursue additional education, one of the first things I looked at was the costs associated with each program. As someone who has been debt-free, and plans to keep future debt limited to just his house payments, I didn’t want to pay $60K plus for my program. ELISAVA is the perfect balance of price and value.

Gut Feeling:

This reason is harder to explain and doesn’t have any hard data to back it up. In June 2016, I had the opportunity to tour several schools in Barcelona, ELISAVA being one of them. When I entered the campus, I felt at home. Now that I’ve been accepted, the university will be my second home for the next year.

Regarding embarking on new adventures, Dr. Seuss said, “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!” Here’s to a year of personal and professional growth, new friendships, and delicious food. Stay tuned for more posts about my experience here in beautiful Barcelona.    

Has anyone else studied a master’s abroad? If so, where and what?  Comment below.

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Ethan Parry is 

... a Service Designer + UX Researcher at Hanzo. Parry frequently leads workshops around the world on topics such as Google Design Sprints, UX research, and service design. Parry also teaches UX and service design in several universities and bootcamps in Barcelona.