When/Where did you study abroad?
I studied abroad for six weeks from the end of June to the beginning of August, 2012. I traveled to Valencia, Spain with an AIP Language Institute program. During my program, I went on tons of adventures: we climbed an enormous rock, went to beautiful beaches, traveled to Ibiza and Morocco, and went clear water canyoning!
What made you want to study abroad?
I've been taking Spanish classes since high school and now I'm majoring in Spanish in college. It seemed to me that I wasn't making as much progress as I thought I should, and I figured that it was because I was always sitting in the same typical class setting, with teachers that spoke a mix of Spanish and English and students that were typically all native English speakers like myself. I felt that the best option for me was to become fully immersed in the culture, where I'd have no choice but to communicate in Spanish. Not only would it improve my Spanish language skills in general, but I figured it would teach me about an entirely new culture as well. I had only traveled outside of the US once before, but never to Europe; and I was ready for a life changing experience.
How did you search for programs? What made you select your program?
First, I searched online at the study abroad programs offered at my university. None of them were of interest to me, so I took note of the signs posted around my campus about an upcoming study abroad fair. I attended the fair and gathered as much information as I could. I took papers and signed forms to receive emails about any program that was traveling to a Spanish-speaking country. As an education major, I knew I couldn't afford to take a full semester or a year abroad, due to all of the other required classes I needed to take. I narrowed my search down to summer programs. The paper I picked up from the fair about Valencia stood out because of the beautiful pictures and descriptions. As I researched more about the institute in Valencia, I knew that was where I wanted to study.
What made your study abroad experience a success?
I think my experience was such a great success because I was open-minded through the whole trip. It is important for students to be willing to try new things and prepare themselves for the shock of being in a completely different culture from their own. I kept in mind that although Spanish culture is different from American culture, it doesn't mean that either one is wrong or right. They are each unique. And I made sure to enjoy Spanish culture while immersed in it. Make the best of your trip!
What did you miss most about home?
My family! With a six-hour time difference, I wasn't always willing to call home because I didn't want to wake my parents up! When I did get the chance to write to them through emails or talk on the phone, I was excited to update them on what was going on. Although I missed them dearly, it was that much more exciting when I came home. I couldn't wait to share my photos and memories with my parents and siblings!
Emily's story highlights her proactive attitude and determination to build international skills and language ability within the framework of her rigid academic program. As an education major, we'd definitely suggest that Emily consider taking some time after graduation to teach English abroad -- either independently, or with a program or NGO. Cross-cultural classroom experience will build her skills as a teacher and a communicator, and will add an important international element to her resume. She might consider teaching English in South America in order to build her Spanish fluency at the same time. There are also other options for certified teachers to go abroad long-term, teaching at English-speaking international schools and universities in major urban centers around the globe.
- The Ideal International Profile is a key article for anyone considering working towards an international career.
- Teaching English As a Stepping Stone to Your International Career describes some of the most common motivations for teaching English abroad.