Erin is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain
Major: English and Hispanic Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I wanted to study abroad as early as my first year coming into CSB/SJU. I knew that to learn more about myself as a young adult I needed to immerse myself in another culture, thus stepping outside of my comfort zone. However, it was a matter of choosing where I wanted to study abroad that presented a challenge. As a Spanish major I knew I wanted to study abroad in a country that spoke the language. The family homestays were what drew me in, but that didn't narrow my choice as all Spanish language programs provide the homestay. As my sophomore year came I knew Spain was the right choice for me. What better place to experience the Spanish culture than the origin of the language itself? Having never been to Europe before, I was also excited for the opportunity to travel to other European countries during my four and a half month adventure.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
For the four months that I was in Spain, my host mom, Julia, and I formed a bond that I could have never anticipated. It was just she and I in her house and that allowed for hours and hours of conversation that went far past dinner time. She woke me up on my birthday with a present and dessert, even after only knowing each other for a few days. She was truly my family in Spain. On the day that I left I asked Julia if I could film her saying a message to my family. She started to cry as she told my family how much she was going to miss me and told my family that they had an extended family in Spain and to come visit as soon as they could. As I am writing this I cannot help but feel an ache in my heart.
Through Julia, I got to know her children and grandchildren and it gave me even more practice with the language. However, what has stuck with me most is how much Spanish families cherish each other and the time they have together. Don't get me wrong, I love my life and family here in America, but often we are so busy with our own lives that we don't take the time to be with each other. In Spain, we would spend hours at the dinner table just talking. I had never felt more welcomed and at home ever in my life. The love the Spanish people have for their families is just one of the many reasons why I will keep returning to their wonderful country for the rest of my life.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall, my study abroad experience was both the best time of my life and the most challenging. I had to learn how to manage a limited budget, navigate foreign countries using a second language, and adapt to a completely different style of living. I would be lying if the experience didn't present different obstacles, but I would face those obstacles all over again because they made me a stronger and better person. Studying abroad also gave me friendships that I will have for the rest of my life. There is something about the bonds that you make with the classmates you study abroad with. You can come home and tell every story of your abroad experience to your friends and family but no one will ever understand it like the people who were there with you. The abroad experience gave me the opportunity to learn more about myself by placing me in an entirely new group of people in an entirely new culture and because of that I have found a more independent, confident, and global-conscious individual in myself. To put it lightly, studying abroad in Spain has been the best decision I have made in my three years at this school, maybe even in my lifetime and if I could, I would do it over and over 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?
Studying abroad has benefitted me in more ways than I can even count. Academically, it ignited in me the desire to switch my Spanish minor to a major. Being in Spain for a prolonged amount of time inspired in me a passion for the language that goes deeper than just the classroom. The academic benefits will, without a doubt, transfer on to my life as a professional. With the ability to speak a 2nd language an entire world is opened up. I am excited to see where my language skills take me in the near future.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Apply. Right now. Try to see past all of the reasons why you can't go or shouldn't and instead think about all of the reasons why you should. As someone who can now speak from experience, the time and money commitment studying abroad requires has paid me back and continues to do so in more ways than one.