Madison is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Spain
Major: Political Science and Hispanic Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I've always desired to travel and experience new cultures, and becoming bi-lingual has been a goal of mine since middle school. That being said, it only made sense that I make every effort to live in a Spanish speaking country in my younger years. After I graduated high school I took a 5 week trip to Vitoria, Spain to visit a friend, and ever since I knew that I would have to return. Everything about Spain interested me; the food, people, music, athletics, history and politics. Compared to other Spanish programs at CSBSJU, Spain gave me the best opportunity to travel and experience a multitude of cultures and other countries within one semester. I returned to Spain as a sophomore at CSB and it was one of the best decisions I've made in college.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Let me first say that I felt utterly spoiled living with my host family. I grew very close to my three host siblings and host parents. Throughout the semester we created a few traditions; weeknights before dinner was always the time that I would help them with English homework and we would watch a game show called "Hormiguero". Sunday afternoons were spent in our pajamas having paella for lunch and watching Harry Potter while eating ice cream before bed.
One particular night that sticks out was the night of our last family dinner before I departed for my post-traveling. I came back from class to see that my host mom MariMar had prepared all of my favorite foods for dinner. She gave me a big hug and kiss and said she was happy to have had me as her "oldest daughter" this semester. It was hard to keep back the tears. It was simple, but little things like cooking my favorite foods just show how invested this family was in to making sure I felt comfortable and welcomed in their home.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Nothing can compare to spending five months immersing yourself in another culture, meeting new people from all over the world, traveling with friends, and solidifying language skills that you had spent years learning.
In a nutshell, the Spain study abroad program is amazing because all of your classes relate to what you do outside of the classroom. For example; one week you will learn about how Spain developed when the Moors conquered Spain, and the next week you will be in Sevilla seeing this influence first hand through architecture, food, art and music.
Hands down, living with a host family was the best part of the trip because that was how I was able to experience live as a normal Spaniard, speak Spanish all the time, and learn about how others might see Americans. Plus it was a perk to walk by the world's best preserved Roman aqueduct on my way to class every day!
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?
Living in another country for four-five months you learn a lot about how to budget your time and money, use public transportation, and being comfortable asking questions or directions to strangers (possibly in your second language!). If/when conflicts or emergencies arise, you have to learn to deal with them without the help of mom and dad. I gained so many skills from study abroad, many of which are essential for life after college and in the workplace.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
If you are considering study abroad but don't think you can afford it or that it won't fit into your schedule- THINK AGAIN! Talk to as many people before making a final decision. Utilize the coordinators in the Education Abroad Office, past participants, and multiple professors to discuss class options and finances. Studying abroad as a sophomore worked much better for my four year plan, it might for yours too!
Lastly, don't be afraid to go alone- you don't have to choose the same program that your friends do. Choose what calls to you, and make the most out of that trip. Getting out of your comfort zone is when you truly see the world and what you are capable of.