University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
1. One of the best parts about studying abroad? Getting to travel to other cities and countries! Here are my top travel tips:
Travel as much as possible! During the six short weeks I lived in Granada, Spain, a small group of friends and I had traveled to eight different cities. We watched the sunrise as we hiked the Sierra Nevada mountains, we ate gazpacho and tapas from the top of an old Moorish fortress, we watched the sunset on the Mediterranean Sea from the sandy shore of Mallorca, and so much in between.
Travel like a local! I assumed trains were the best mode of transportation, but my host family said “que tonta” and told me to take the bus. And I am grateful I listened because they knew best. The bus system was high quality, very affordable, and went everywhere I wanted to go.
Traveling does not have to mean hours away! To “travel” can be as close as one bus stop outside the city limits. In countries where the history dates back thousands of years, a couple miles can make the world of a difference in food, language, and culture.
And, of course, pack light! Waiting at baggage check for over an hour for a backpack of clothes that were never worn is a mistake I made only once.
2. How has your study abroad experience impacted your life, academics, and/or future career goals?
I am a computer science major minoring in business. Since high school, I have been STEM-focused. I took the bare minimum amount of course credits for English, Spanish and History. I taught myself Java so I could take a higher-level programming class. In study hall, I was almost always tutoring students in math. Then in college, the worst case scenario occurred: I needed to take two semesters of Spanish.
The Spanish 230 in Granada, Spain program was perfect for me. It satisfied both semesters of Spanish, my most dreaded graduation requirement, and I fulfilled my lifelong dream of studying abroad. I was elated when I found out that I would be traveling to Spain for the spring semester. But I was also excited to know that I would never have to take a Spanish class again.
Studying abroad with the purpose of learning Spanish was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was not stressed from trying to juggle four courses at once; I was able to focus on Spanish and commit my time to learning and studying the language. Because it was an enjoyable experience, this rigorous course instilled in me a love for Spanish—which I would not have gotten from a traditional Spanish course. I am going to carry that with me moving forward. I now jump at any opportunity to speak Spanish, and my desire to travel has only grown. In the fall, I am going to join a Spanish Conversation club; it meets weekly with the sole purpose of starting Spanish discussions. I am also going to take a Spanish culture class next Winter term, not because it is a requirement, but because I want to. And I am already planning my study abroad adventure through Asia next summer.