I’ll start off my saying that without a doubt up to this point in my life studying abroad has been the best decision I have made. Again, that is up to this point. I can almost guarantee that teaching in Spain will be my best decision.
After my sophomore year of college, I knew I wanted to study abroad and began researching as many programs in as many places as possible. In high school, I went to Spain for 10 days and feel in love with everything it had to offer. I obviously wanted to return to Spain, but still looked into programs throughout the world. I needed a program that had courses, which would transfer back to my university and give me credit towards my major. Eventually, I found a program through CEA in Granada, Spain. Not only did the courses transfer back to help me with my majors and minor, but it was in Spain!
I stayed with a host mom, Lola, and three other students who were studying abroad in the same program as me, two girls and another boy. It was really nice being able to live with other students for social purposes, but it was much more difficult to speak Spanish in our piso because we all spoke English except for our host mom with whom we spoke Spanish. My roommates were from all over the U.S. and world. Lin was from China but was going to college in Seattle. Andy was from Seattle, and Ama was born in Ghana and now lived in D.C. but attended college in North Carolina. There was a very interesting mix of culture between all of us, and we all learned from each other…and had tons of fun too!
As for school, I took 4 courses: Spanish Grammar, Spanish Conversation, Political Systems of the EU, and History of Art in Spain. The courses were all pretty interesting, but in case anyone’s wondering, the classes were not nearly as much work as my college courses in the U.S. were. I learned a lot in class, but as far as out of class research and work, it was not as much work. If it was designed this way, I think it was smart because I was able to further explore Spain and its culture, which was truly the best learning experience of all.
Many study abroad students tend to live in their city during the weekdays and then go jet setting all over on the weekends, which is understandable, especially with so many exciting places to travel to that are so close and easy to get to. However, I found myself loving Granada, and while I did to some traveling, I always found myself happy to return to my city. I also did a fair amount of traveling within Andalucía and felt as though I truly got a good feel for the culture of southern Spain, which is why I selected it as a region I wanted to teach English in. Generally, I recommend to people studying abroad that they make sure to travel to other cities in the area of their city or country, depending on where they go, and to stay in their own city for a few weekends, opposed to flying off to exotic locales every weekend. I know many people who left every weekend and that the end of the program were regretting the fact they didn’t spend more time in Granada. Plus, I would have been broke if I left for somewhere every weekend!
All in all, studying abroad was the best decision I made in college. It also “cursed” me with my wanderlust. Now, I wouldn’t say cursed, but some may since I’ll be leaving my safe, secure, (boring) job to go teach in Spain for a year…and maybe longer.
I highly recommend studying abroad to anyone. This could be for a semester, year, summer, or even a month long winter break trip, not everyone’s schedule or finances allows them to study abroad, but I believe that if you can make it work, you should do everything possible to make it work! I’ve never met anyone who has studied abroad, who’s regretted it, just people who didn’t, who wish they did.
Did you study abroad? Where? Did you enjoy your experience? Are you considering studying abroad; what’s holding you back?