Annie is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain
Major: Economics, and Hispanic Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Since I was in high school, I had always wanted to study abroad. I knew the study abroad programs at CSB/SJU were nationally ranked, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Studying abroad is a requirement for the Hispanic Studies major, and Spain was one of the three options I could choose from to satisfy the requirement. I was drawn to the Spain program from the start, as I had been interested in Spain's history and culture since I started taking Spanish classes in junior high. I also wanted to be located in Europe, where I could do some additional traveling. With those things in mind, it left me with no other option than to study abroad there. And I can honestly say, I could not be happier with my decision.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Living with a host mom/ family was probably the most impressionable cultural experience that I had while abroad. The experience of living fully immersed in another culture exposed me to customs and traditions I never would have experienced had I not lived with a host family. Not to mention, I was able to develop a relationship with my host mom that I know will last a lifetime. Every day, her and I ate lunch together and were able to have conversations on a wide variety of topics, whether that be simple things like what we had going on that week or discussing differences in cultures between the US and Spain. These conversations allowed me to get a greater understanding of how the US affects and fits into all of humanity. I was able to view things from the vantage point of her culture and perspective, which enabled me to see some things in ways I might not have imagined. She was constantly helping me improve my Spanish, always correcting me if I misused a verb or pronounced something incorrectly. In return, I was able to help her, as she was trying to further her English speaking abilities. She welcomed me into her home as a stranger and I left knowing that I would always have a "mom" and friend in Segovia that I could come back to.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I'm still trying to find words to describe my overall study abroad experience. I find myself saying it was "amazing", "awesome", and "incredible", but it was so much more than that. My time abroad was life-changing, enriching and eye-opening; it left me with not only a completely different view of the world, but it also allowed me to gain a completely different set of skills and a way of thinking that I never would have acquired had I not studied abroad. My experience was filled with many highs and many lows, but was incredibly rewarding. Studying in Segovia left me with a unique experience abroad. Instead of being located in a larger city, the small feel of the town left me with a better understanding of the Spanish lifestyle and culture, and also provided me a greater opportunity to improve my Spanish skills, as a majority of the people in the town do not speak English.
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?
The growth you experience abroad is incomparable to any other experience you may ever get in life. I gained a new found independence and self-confidence, and I also retuned with a more sophisticated way of looking at the world. Studying abroad allowed me to experience a culture completely different than my own, while simultaneously helping me better understand my own cultural values. I also became closer in my relationships with others, including my program director, the other students in my program, my professors abroad and my Spanish host mom. The program director, professors and my host mom taught me more Spanish in the four months I was in Spain than I've learned in all the years I've been studying the language. I didn't realize how much of the language I didn't actually know until I was forced to speak it 24/7. My Spanish would not be at the level it currently is at had I not immersed myself in the language. In addition, studying abroad gave me the opportunity to live and see more of Spain than I ever could have imagined. Not to mention, Segovia is now another place that I can call "home".
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
With the incredible study abroad programs CSB/SJU has to offer, I would say not to consider planning on studying abroad, but to make it a requirement that you do. I 100% guarantee that you will not regret making the decision to study abroad; you will regret it if you don't. Studying abroad will change you; you will leave one person and come back a completely different one. If I haven't already emphasized this enough, the knowledge and skills you gain while abroad are incomparable to what you will learn in a semester at CSB/SJU. That being said, my advice to you, simply, is to go. Go see and explore the world, and figure out all that you can be. There will be difficult and challenging times, but embrace everything. Embrace the uncomfortable and the awkwardness; learn from every situation and don't take a second for granted. You may never get this opportunity again in your life, so take it while you can.