Illinois State University
1. How has your study abroad experience shaped you today?
I realize that there are not enough words to adequately describe my time abroad. I feel like I have become an entirely different person, a more real and whole me. The opportunities I had while abroad are numerous and extensive, but each had a significant impact on the person I am today. Before going to Spain, I felt confused and unsure of most things in my life, but after coming back, I am sure that my potential is endless and anything is possible if I am sure of myself and my capabilities. The most important things I have learned are that language doesn’t have to be a barrier; family is more important than I ever realized; studies don’t have to be the center of your life as long as you’re doing what you love; and food is a very important part of every culture! I will never forget my time living with my incredible host family in a country so different from my own. I was able to share so many things with them from the simple conversations about activities I did in class to something as complex as my mental health. In high school, I gave a speech to the whole school about my experience with mental disorders and it was one of the hardest things I had to do. I thought I would never do something like that again, but after seeing how understanding a person can be even when there is a language barrier, I’ve found that I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Living in Granada with my host family truly was an ever-lasting experience that I will cherish forever.
2. If you learned another language while you were abroad, what tips and tricks can you offer future study abroad students?
I would have to say that the best way to learn a language is to fully immerse yourself in it. Not everyone has this kind of opportunity, but if you are lucky to be able to, put in your best effort every day to speak to the natives. And, if you get the chance to live with a host family, talk to them about what you do every day. I also found it helpful to watch game shows with my family because they use a lot of every day vocabulary, and I could ask my host family about the words I didn’t know. The most helpful thing that I did before leaving for my host country was changing my phone to Spanish because it really forced me to learn vocabulary that’s prevalent today.