Studying abroad was always an option in the schools I’ve attended, and I figure everyone that is in college is aware what studying abroad is in some sense. Ever since high school I knew I would devote my life to studying languages. In my sophomore year I was really interested in studying abroad but had never lived away from home, so I decided to test it out and go away for the summer to Spain; a country I have always been interested in but never experienced. In high school I did a foreign exchange to Italy and have traveled within the states, so I had an idea of how things would go down.
I studied at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP), in Santander, Spain. I literally lived alongside a beach and walked to school. I made two friends who happened to attend CSI and whom I still hang out with today (if we happen to be in the same country at the same time, that is). Many other students from other countries were there, and, surprisingly, spoke perfect English. Finding out that Europeans (in general) know more languages than Americans only made me want to work harder at learning about other cultures. Between preparing 8 pounds of guacamole for students who had no clue what it was or how to pronounce it, to making up stories in my grammar class in order to practice new verb tenses, I had a blast. Everyone says culture shock can scare people and make it difficult to enjoy yourself in a foreign country. For me and the other people I studied with, we seemed to adapt pretty well. As long as one is open to different things, it shouldn’t be hard. The issue I had was the reverse culture shock, which is not mentioned as much. When I came home I would criticize things in America and found it a bit odd being back home. Once I got over the fact I wasn’t in Spain and accepted the differences, I decided I needed to go back.
In Santander I got to experience life away from the states and the dorm life, something that I don’t get here. However, it was only a month, and I didn’t get to meet as many locals as I wanted nor did I have a full sense of freedom in the dorms…I needed more. Two friends and I looked all over for study abroad programs. Some were cheap but didn’t count for college credits. After searching I found the CEA study abroad program. It was a good price and would get me classes that will help towards my major. It even had a business class for my friend to take, either in English or Spanish depending on a student’s level.
While in Granada (a city located in the very south of Spain), I lived in an apartment with my friends and another American. I learned to live on my own, and, surprisingly, I’m not too bad at cooking. This experience helped me think of things in a positive light, something I haven’t always done in the past. This time I was able to interact with more Spaniards and really become immersed in the culture. Living alone I had the true “typical” college experience of going to parties and being responsible for everything without my parents advice; even though they were just a phone call away. Only it wasn’t so typical for the fact that I was in a different country, experiencing things my friends upstate would never see. A month before leaving to go home me and a bunch of other students were worrying; we didn’t want to leave. To be honest, it’s hard to say exactly what I loved about Spain or studying abroad so much, but studying abroad creates this new feeling, this new high that you can’t compare to anything else in life except maybe love.