Karlyn Sturtevant is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose the Spain study abroad program because back when I was a junior in high school, I took a class trip to Spain for 14 days and fell in love with everything that Spain had to offer! I could not picture myself studying abroad anywhere else. I also have been taking Spanish classes since high school and find the Spanish language fascinating. The fact that we were able to stay with host families also really appealed to me. Living with a host family allows the students to become that much more immersed in the Spanish culture. Being able to finish my minor while abroad was a plus. Another thing that really helped me with my decision was the location of Spain. You can travel anywhere in Europe from Spain and Segovia, being only a half hour by fast train from Madrid, was in the perfect location for either pre- or post-travel.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
My last weekend in Segovia with my host family has to be one of my most favorite memories of my time spent in Spain. Throughout the program my family would travel to their pueblo, town where my host mom grew up, on many of the weekends. I was not able to go until my last weekend in Segovia, due to the excursions that we went on as a group. My family one night at dinner, a week before having to leave Segovia, asked me if I would be willing to miss my last weekend with my Spain group and travel with them to their pueblo. I was so excited that they ask me and could not say no!
Their pueblo was located in La Losana de Pirón, just 20 minutes from Segovia. The car ride there was so much fun! I played a game similar to "I Spy" with my five-year-old host brother and my 7-year-old host sister. The kids were very good at this game, I cannot say the same for myself, but I still had fun playing. Once we arrived in La Losana de Pirón we unloaded the car and got the fire started to begin warming the house. After getting situated my host family took me on the 10-minute tour of La Losana de Pirón. During the walk I learned so much about my host family and their relatives. All of my host mom's siblings and cousins have houses there too. My host dad pointed out the town's church and told me that he and my host mom were married there many years ago. They brought me to the one and only bar to meet their family friend who owned the bar. The town was very small but carried so much history. I was really lucky that my host family wanted to share something that they love with me.
The population of La Losana de Pirón during the winter months does not exceed 70 people. The town was beautiful. Many of the houses were very old but kept up well and some were brand new. Many of the families who owned houses in the pueblo also owned a section of land that they farmed just right outside of La Losana de Pirón. My family had a farm with a huge garden where they grow all the vegetables that they eat throughout the year. They took me here and I helped my host mom plant flowers in pots that she would put out once the weather became warmer. After working for a bit out on the farm, we walked back to their house and began to prepare dinner. They asked me what I would like the night before when they went grocery shopping and I was craving a hamburger at the time, so they bought everything that it would take to make a really good hamburger. My host dad made homemade French fries even! It was so good! I found out so much about my host family that weekend and will never forget how much closer I became with them.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall study abroad experience was amazing! I learned so much in the four months that I spent living in Segovia, Spain. Whether it was from my host family, classes, excursions, or just from walking around the town, there was never a moment where I did not learn something new about the culture or myself. My professors were all excellent teachers and had so much information to share with us. I loved the excursions because that was the only time we were all together for a long period of time. I would do anything to relive those four months in Spain again.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
I would say one of the major benefits that I thought study abroad did for me was improve my confidence in speaking Spanish. I never thought I would be able to live with a host family that knew zero English and be able to communicate with them, but that thought changed after my program. I was able to communicate anything and everything with my host family. I even had to talk with a doctor by myself and was able to describe all my symptoms and understand his suggestions. As for academic, I was able to complete my minor in Hispanic Studies. This allowed me to focus on my major senior year and not have to worry about fulfilling my minor. I hope to one day be a bilingual dentist who will be able to work with Spanish speakers as part of my profession. Spain definitely showed me that I can communicate and would be able to be a bilingual dentist.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
If you are worried you will be home sick, do not be! Yes, I missed home at certain points in the trip, but there was always so much else going on to take my mind off the fact that I wasn't at home. I think being in a different country by yourself without your family is a big step but it helps you grow so much more independent and as well as confident in yourself. I will never regret my decision to study abroad and hope that all of you who are considering or planning to study abroad choose to study abroad in Segovia, Spain. It will be the best experience of your life and you will never forget the amazing time you spent over in Europe!
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Spain? Email Karlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.