Originally when I signed up to study abroad, my goal was to come back home bilingual. Ever since I began taking Spanish classes when I was younger, a goal of mine was to be bilingual one day so that I could open up the door to knowledge about other groups of people. Fortunately, I have had lots of success in my classes and have learned a ton of Spanish, but perhaps more valuable than the language skills themselves, I gained a different perspective of the world itself by fully learning about Spanish culture. During my trip abroad, I did a home-stay experience, meaning that I was fully immersed in Spanish culture for the entire trip. Every day, I had to speak the language all day. All of my communication had to be done in Spanish. While this was a little intimidating at first, I am so thankful I did it. I learned more than I thought was possible, faster than I thought was possible. Language skills are very valuable, but without the culture, they don’t hold as much power. After learning all about Spanish culture, suddenly the years I had spent learning Spanish had all become worth the hard work. My experience studying abroad taught me that culture can be a very beautiful and powerful thing.
One of the greatest things about Spanish culture is how open and kind the people are. For example, it is not uncommon that you have extended conversations with strangers on the street just in passing. In the United States it is very common that we just say “hello” and keep moving. But in Spain, it is much more common to say hello and follow up by asking someone how they are and to share a small conversation. This made feeling comfortable in Spain much easier. Another excellent thing about Spanish culture is the food. The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world, but also one of the tastiest. With a variety of spices, vegetables and meats, this diet has incredible flavor. Another difference about Spain is that the mealtimes are much longer than in the United States. During mealtimes in Spain, it is very common to sit and speak while enjoying a meal, as well as sitting after a meal to enjoy more conversation. This really helped me gain an insight as to what the lives of the people in Spain are really like. Learning about how the people of Spain think about life makes you change the way you think about life as an American.
Spain is a country that is full of beautiful places to go. The university we studied with sponsored a trip to Toledo, Spain During my study abroad, my friends and I traveled from Madrid to Barcelona. Surprisingly, traveling within Spain is quite cheap. We got a bus ticket (round-trip) for only $50. We also had an incredible experience staying in Barcelona, as we immediately bonded with the hosts of our Airbnb. This Airbnb was a bit different than a conventional Airbnb because the hosts of the Airbnb lived in the home and the guests of the Airbnb stayed there with the family. This was no problem for us as we immediately bonded over their love of hiking and climbing. We bonded so well that our Airbnb host invited us to go climb a mountain in Northern Spain with him. We gladly accepted this offer and my friends and I traveled to Northern Spain and climbed the mountain called Pedraforca (located in the city of Berguedà in Catalonia). Not only did we climb this mountain, we spent the night camping on the summit and watched the sunrise the next morning. This was truly one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had in my life and I am so thankful I was able to go on this mountain climbing trip. Although you don’t have to climb a mountain to enjoy a study abroad trip, this is just an example of the crazy amount of opportunities that Spain has to offer. I was in Spain for a month and upon the end of my trip as I was reflecting, I realized there is so much more to Spain that I want to see. That’s what makes Spain unique to other countries. There’s always something new to see!
This program was absolutely phenomenal because it gives students the opportunity to spend time living with a family as well as plenty of free time to explore around Spain. This experience I had in Spain is an experience that I won’t forget for the rest of my life. Not only did I accomplish my goal of learning Spanish… I came away with a new perspective on life that I will hold onto forever.
Jeremy Grant (BS Economics) spent Summer 2022 in Alcala de Henares, Spain as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Jeremy had the following to say about study abroad, “Not only did I accomplish my goal of learning Spanish… I came away with a new perspective on life that I will hold onto forever.”
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