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Mariah Railsback

Mariah is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain
Major: Hispanic Studies and Mathematics


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

I have always wanted the opportunity to study abroad. For me, visiting a Spanish speaking country and immersing myself in their culture was the best way to become fluent in the language. I decided to go to Spain for many different reasons. I liked the idea of actually living with a family. This allowed me to gain insight on the similarities and differences between our two cultures. I also enjoyed learning the history of the country and being able to experience it first-hand. Another determining factor was the abundance of excursions the program had to offer. We had the opportunity to travel almost every weekend to different parts of the country; it was always a new adventure and learning experience. One of the other reasons I selected Spain was the capability to quickly and inexpensively travel to other countries within Europe.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

At first, Spain's culture was overwhelming. Everything seemed backwards or strange to me. However, I learned to accept that every culture has their own traditions and customs. I was able to gain a new perspective on life. For example, Spaniards are very family oriented. They eat lunch and dinner together as a family every day. Personally, in my family, this isn't a natural occurrence. Usually, we're always on the go and rushing off to work or meetings. Therefore, we might see each other in passing, but never sit down together.
Being in Spain helped me realize that taking the time to sit down with your family and actually talk with each other is so important. I realized how much I had been taking my family for granted back at home.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Overall, I had the opportunity to experience something new everyday. I made new friendships. I tried many different foods. I gained an abundance of knowledge in regards to the Spanish language and culture.
Everyday, I walked around different parts of the city to become more familiar with my surroundings. I really enjoyed exploring the little shops and finding hidden gems.
My host mom made me something new every day, so I was able to expand my palate.
In addition, I learned a lot of the slang and more everyday vocabulary.

Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad?

By spending an entire semester in Spain, I was able to "discover myself." That sounds cliché, but it's true. I was forced out of my comfort zone which really challenged me to do things I never would have done otherwise. For example, I'm usually the type of person who has to plan out everything before I do it. But when we made spring break and post travel plans, I just went with the flow. I wanted to embrace the saying "Que será será."
I gained a new perspective on different countries and their customs, which made me more culturally aware. Now, I feel I have a better understanding of how the international students (who go to CSB/SJU) feel.
Studying in Spain allowed me to become more fluent in the language. I practiced speaking with Spanish speakers over the summer so I wouldn't forget everything I learned. I would like to work internationally in the future, and therefore I believe it was very beneficial for me in the long run.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

It's different for everyone. Personally, I would tell anyone who's considering it, to do it. Go abroad. Don't let anyone or anything hold you back. You have this amazing opportunity waiting at your doorstep. Sometimes you need to take a leap of faith. So many experiences are awaiting you. This is the time, so why not?