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¡Vamos España!

My Summer in Spain

      

Description

    During the Summer of 2011 I had the opportunity to travel on my own to Spain in order to study abroad at Nebrija University in the capital of Madrid and reside with a local Spanish family for two months. I've always had a passion for the Spanish language, and since I am a Spanish major, this was an experience I had always wanted to partake in. Overall, my goal was to improve my fluency of the language, but also to experience and learn more about the culture, history, and people of Spain.

Importance

    Besides the opportunity and resources to improve my Spanish language skills, I believe this trip was a great way to grow and mature as an adult because of the increased independence and responsibility that inevitably came about as a result of travelling by myself. I was exposed to new and sometimes nerve-wracking and difficult situations. Sometimes, it 's beneficial to open yourself up to completely new experiences that take you out of your comfort zone, making you more prepared to handle new, possibly more challenging situations in the future. The culture and way of life in Spain is markedly different than the one in the U.S., so it was both interesting and refreshing to gain a different perspective on life, which I definitely think back to and now try to incorporate into my own philosophy.

Skills Gained
  • Communication: This skill is multi-faceted. First of all, I improved my Spanish speaking skills, which allowed me to communicate with just about anyone without too much difficulty, which was especially important because my host mom did not speak any English whatsoever. Secondly, I was able to gain confidence in my general communication skills as a result of all the new people and situations I was exposed to.
  • Cooperation: I met a variety of new people from all over the world on this trip, and I had the opportunity to travel and sight-see with them throughout Spain. However, this also meant I needed to work with them to coordinate our trips; cohesiveness, understanding, and compromise within the group were definitely "musts."
  • Living independently: Traveling to school, new customs, and other cultural aspects were important points I needed to adapt to quickly. Even the education system deviated significantly from the classes I had taken at U of M. Therefore, I had to take initiative and responsibility in order to make sure my credits transferred properly and also so I could be a successful student and global citizen. This was the first trip I had take on my own for such a long period of time, so it was important for me to figure out how to rely more on myself instead of my parents and trust my own decision making.
Lessons Learned

    This study abroad trip was in essence a way for me to find out about myself, to test what I am capable of learning and adapting to. I enjoyed meeting and getting along with my fellow classmates, teachers, and host mom. I already had a strong background in Spanish, which made the adjustment much easier, but the amount I improved by the end of the trip was enormous. I also learned how to tap into the more adventurous and spontaneous side of me, which is something that goes against the more dominant and structured part of my personality. However, there were certain challenges that made me learn how to handle different situations. For example, I had to learn to navigate the very large city on my own, including learning the subway system and my way to class and other central parts to the city. Some final insights I gained were about the differences between cultures that I was not aware of before, such as between Spaniards, Latin Americans, and Americans themselves, including the impact that age has on cultural mentality. I was able to to get exposed to many of these types of people and learn a great deal about how others view the world.

Impact

    The most obvious impact of this study abroad experience is that my Spanish has improved very significantly, especially my speaking skills and my ability to distinguish between many different accents. I am now able to immerse myself and relate to the Spanish classes I take at U of M to take a greater extent than before. In addition, I will be able to approach new and challenging situations with more confidence than before because this trip demonstrated that I am capable of fending for myself and adapting to a completely different environment. Therefore, in the future I won't have as many qualms about trying new things and having to go through various transitions because I can think back to this time when something that could have been nerve-wracking and overwhelming turned out to the one of the best experiences of my life.



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