The historic city of Pamplona, Spain, is home away from home this semester for University of Mississippi junior Alexandra Leigh Jones of Madison.

In early February, Jones joined some 60 other international students to study at the Universidad Publica de Navarra, in the city where the running of the bulls festival event was brought to literary renown by author Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises."

 Jones and two other American students share an apartment one block from the festival venue and three blocks from Hemingway's favorite café. 

"The lifestyle here is incredible," she said. "The Spanish people are very friendly; no one has hesitated to assist me, and I am so grateful for that. Things are much slower; people are not worried about time. Everything closes from 2 to 4 (p.m.) for a siesta. When people go out to eat, they often sit for hours talking, and no one spends the entire meal staring at their phone the way people do at home."

Jones said she has especially enjoyed making new friends from around the world.

 "One of the most interesting and fun things I have experienced was when 30 of the international students had a three-hour meal together," she said. "Over the span of seven courses of strange new foods, we all sat there talking and learning about each other and our different cultures. My favorite part of the night was being asked to explain what 'y'all' meant."

A member of UM's Croft Institute for International Studies, Jones is a Croft Scholar and recipient of a four-year, annual Croft Scholarship of $8,000. She belongs to the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Lott Leadership Institute. On her study abroad, she is earning 15 hours of academic credit toward her Ole Miss degree in international studies and Spanish.  

"My tuition here costs the same as it does at home, thanks to a partnership that Ole Miss has with this school. And I was very blessed to have received a great deal of financial support from the Honors College. With this support, I have been able to cover the majority of the cost of my trip."

Jones first studied in another country in summer 2011, when she visited Ecuador. While she says navigating through a foreign country in a different language is not an easy task, she highly recommends the experience to other students.

"I think that students are often so enamored with the lifestyle at Ole Miss that we forget there is anything else out there. Meeting different people from different backgrounds and adjusting to a whole new way of life gives you a greater appreciation for your own life and the lives of others."

Kees Gispen, Croft director, agrees.

"Alex is one of our top students, but the semester abroad is transformative. So I have no doubt that she will return home a different, more confident and more mature person - even better than she already is now," he said. 

During Easter break, Jones plans to travel around Europe with some of her new friends. She will return to the Oxford campus this fall to begin her senior year, with graduation slated for May 2014.

Jones said she decided to attend Ole Miss because of "the incredible opportunities that were available to me here which no other university could offer."

"I'm confident that the university has provided me with a solid academic background and strong social network that will be great advantages in the years to come," she said.

Listed on the Chancellor's Honor Roll, she belongs to Phi Kappa Phi, the university's highest academic honor across all disciplines.