If I had to describe this experience in one word, it would be amazing. I learned so much about myself and expanded my learning as well. At the beginning of the trip, we stayed as a group in a hotel in Madrid, where we did various group excursions. This is when we all first made our connections with each other, and began forming our various "friend groups". After this, we went to Valencia where we dispersed off with our roommates and host families. The first couple days were mainly spent adjusting to our new place of living, our host family, and Valencia itself. Then, we began school which also took an adjustment getting used to how to get there everyday. After the first week, I would say we were all pretty settled and comfortable, which is when we were more on our own. We still spent time with and contacted our host families daily, even if we took a weekend trip. Our day-to-day included going to school, then going off with friends somewhere such as the beach, shopping center, or just exploring the city. Then, on the weekends that we had no school activities planned, we were allowed to travel anywhere we chose to. I spent most of my time with my group of friends, my host family and exploring the city. I tried to get the most out of the trip as I could and expose myself to their culture, so I explored the city, went to see various monuments and tried various foods. This trip was very eye-opening for me in a personal and educational aspect.
The most memorable experience I had on this experience was the weekend trips I took with the friends I made. Getting to explore so many beautiful, new places with new people is so incredible. The connections I made on this trip are ones that I will never lose or forget, and I will be forever grateful for them. The trips that we took around Spain together were equally as unforgettable. We learned so much about the culture and languages of Spain, as well as about each other. Another memorable experience I had would be the connection I had with my host mother. We stayed with a host family instead of in an apartment or dorm, and that helped my experience as well. Getting to see the culture first-hand and connect with my host mom was very enjoyable.
What advice would you give?
My advice would be to DO IT! I know many people, including myself, who were very hesitant in going through with it, and some who backed out of it altogether. While it is an understandably nerve-wracking, scary thing to do, especially when going through it alone, it is absolutely worth it. Go to the study abroad fair, talk to those in charge of the programs you are interested in, and do the research on their websites. Also, once you choose a program, do your research on the country that you will be traveling to. This will help you feel more comfortable in traveling there. Once you arrive in the country the day your program starts, do your best to make connections as soon as you can. While I waited in the airport to be transported to the hotel, I found others with Iowa State gear on and made connections with them right away, and continued to do so throughout the whole program. Making the friends I did on my program had the biggest influence on how much I enjoyed it, as well as having good connections with the directors.
How has this experience impacted your life?
This experience has impacted my life in a variety of ways. It opened my eyes greatly to the world around me and what is available to me. It also allowed me to see more of what I'm capable of, as I went on this trip by myself, not knowing anyone else prior to arriving in Spain. It also made me more knowledgable in other cultures and improved my Spanish fluency, which I will be able to use in my future professions. I plan to work in social work, where I will see many minority families. Being fluent in Spanish will allow me to communicate better with these families, which will also help me to obtain better positions in my future. Finally, the main reason I had for going on this trip was to finish my Spanish minor. If I studied abroad, I would finish my minor in Spain, and if I didn't, I would have to take an extra class here at Iowa State. I was able to finish my minor and go beyond that by expanding my education on Spanish and the Spanish culture.
How did you learn about this experience?
I learned about this opportunity through the study abroad fair. I knew that I wanted to study abroad to help me finish my Spanish minor, and I had to do it in the summer due to my class schedule. I went to the study abroad fair and consulted with a few different directors, then went onto the study abroad website, and found this option to be best for me.International Connections