Overall, my experience in Spain was very eye-opening. I was able to experience a new culture immersively, between listening to music, trying foods, speaking in a different language, and working on a different time-schedule. I loved being able to travel and see historical places within a few minutes of my apartment, as well as getting to connect with a family who has lived in Spain their entire lives.
The most valuable learning experience that I had during my time in Spain was the ability to sit down and chat with my host family. My host parents taught me all about their favorite (and least favorite) parts of their culture, including festivals, food, and current events. They encouraged me to check out a few different museums and historical landmarks and were very helpful when it came to navigating the city via bus and train. I truly feel like they made the experience because I was fully immersed in their day-to-day lives. I learned how to make some of the most traditional Spanish meals and learned a lot about the political positions and beliefs of the Spanish government. I also learned a lot about the festival of Fallas, particularly because my host mom contributes heavily to the event. After six weeks with them, I felt like I had gained more knowledge of Spain than any of my classes had, strictly because I was in constant communication about the country and culture.
One of the most memorable experiences I had while I was abroad was the proximity to so much rich history. On our first free weekend in Spain, a group of girls and I took a 30-minute train to Jativa, where we hiked for hours through ancient castle ruins, exploring the beautiful greenery and history that Spain has to offer. It was super cheap and easy, and, although it was very warm, it was a great opportunity to bond as a group while enjoying our surroundings. We got dinner at a cute little restaurant in town before taking the train back home. The rich history had us all baffled, and it was crazy to know that we had planned it so last minute. It ended up being one of my favorite experiences in Valencia!
What did you not expect?
Something that I wasn't expecting in Spain was how slow the culture is. It really put into perspective that we run on a very fast-paced life. When my host family sat down for dinner, it was always a few hours long, filled with good food and good conversation. After eating at a restaurant, it was entirely customary to sit and chat over clean plates for a while. We always had to ask for our check, because the wait staff never wanted anyone to feel rushed out. It was very eye-opening and made me realize just how fast life moves, but that it truly can be slowed down and enjoyed with a few minor changes!
What advice would you give?
My advice is to GO! Studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime experience. I would encourage them to sign up, even if they don't know anyone else going. I got to Spain before I knew anyone I was traveling with, and I now have a large group of new friends. We all bonded well while we were abroad, so have no fear about finding people beforehand.
How has this experience impacted your life?
This experience gave me memories that I will truly never forget. Personally, it lit a fire in my heart to continue traveling and seeing our beautiful world. I loved getting to meet people from all over, and it was so cool to see the communication barriers fall away once I began using my second language. It was great to be able to communicate with people that I would not have been able to had I only understood English, so I have a newfound love for learning new languages for that reason. I would love to continue learning the Spanish language because I have seen how beautiful it can be as well as how useful it is to know. This will also help me in my career, as I hope to have enough Spanish knowledge to be able to communicate with students and families in my classrooms who may not speak English as their first language. I would also love to teach Spanish in an elementary school, as I believe that it is very important to learn multiple languages from a young age.
How did you learn about this experience?
I learned about this through my EDUC 216 class, in which we talked about abroad experiences. I then asked more questions to my Spanish professors because it peaked my interest.International Connections