Anna is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain
Major: Psychology and Hispanic Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because it was something that I have wanted to do since high school and my family comes from Spain and I was very interested in exploring deeper the culture of my grandmother and mother as a second generation US born family member.. It just so happened to be a requirement for my Hispanic Studies major as well which made it really easy to fit into my four year plan! I decided on Spain over Chile and Guatemala for my Spanish requirement because as I mentioned previously, my family comes from Spain and I am very interested in the culture and roots of my family and wanted to immerse myself in my family's history. I also was sure I wanted to go abroad during the Spring which helped my decision because Spain is a Spring program.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
An experience that stands out to me as something I still carry with me is the culture of their week long festival "Carnaval." I did not know that Carnaval was such a big celebration in Spain. It is celebrated the entire week leading up to Lent. It is a week where the whole city dresses up as if it were a week long halloween affair and celebrates with street festivals every night and concerts around the city. The children in the schools all have themes of what kind of costumes they wear day by day and it is divided by grade. It was such a fun 6 days leading up to the 7th day (fat Tuesday) where there was a huge parade and everyone in the city was out and dressed up and there were concerts in the plaza. That is when I really felt like I was a part of this community as we were celebrating right along with them and learning about the importance of this Carnaval week! It is such a big holiday that the schools don't hold classes the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday so everyone can celebrate.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I don't even know where to start. I had such a great experience in Segovia. My host-parents were so supportive and accommodating to me. I really felt at home with them. I never felt like I was staying in someone else's house after the first few days. It really was as if I were a part of their family. Classes were great. They were challenging at times due to the language difference, but everyone for the most part was super successful in the classes. As a group I think we had a great dynamic for the most part. Our group ended up becoming so close and we all were friends to the point where almost everything any of us did had an open invite attached for anyone else in the group to join, which was really inclusive. Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better semester in such a beautiful and history filled city like Segovia. I would love to return with this years group if that were an option. I would do it all again in a heart beat.
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 contributed to my personal growth because when you travel and live across the ocean from your family you really learn how to be even more independent than you already have at college. I learned so much about the practical things of adulthood when I didn't have family to lean on all the time or my mom couldn't just send me things I needed. I had to do it on my own. My academic growth was huge due to the second language experience. An immersion, I believe, is the best was to learn a culture and language. My language skills expanded and improved so much abroad. coming from a background where my Spanish spoken dialect was south american, I learned so much about the Castellano style of the language and have so much more of a broader spectrum of my second language and European culture as a whole, and more specifically Spanish and Segovian culture
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Live in the moment. You only get 4.5 months. This seems like a lot looking at it in December, but looking back on it in May, it seems that it has gone by in just the blink of an eye. Soak up all of the culture surrounding you. it seems like it would be easy since it is culture and language immersion, but sometimes its easy to not go on little adventures and stay in your room because those long days are exhausting. Don't ever say no to foods before trying them once. I made this rule for myself and it was a great decision. My host mom cooked a lot of things that were pretty unfamiliar to me but I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't refuse anything until I gave it a chance. I did that and it really broadened my experience by allowing me to be more exploratory with my meals. I think food is a HUGE and important part of culture, so living as they do and eating as they do will give you the full experience.