During the 2016 summer session, I participated in the Spanish language and culture program for 6 weeks in Malaga and Madrid, Spain. I chose this program because I am studying Spanish as my major, I had always wanted to travel to Spain, and through this program, I was able to get credit for my major while doing something that I had always dreamed of doing.
The biggest challenge that I faced during my study abroad experience was the language barrier. Although I am currently studying Spanish, it took some time for me to adjust to the very distinct Andalusian accent that almost everyone in the south of Spain speaks with and hearing verb forms and certain words that are only used in Spain. Navigating subway maps, reading restaurant menus, and even connecting to the Spanish Internet servers and finding every website in Spanish was a challenge. However, as I adjusted to the accent and spent time in Spain, all of those tasks became a lot easier. This was also the most rewarding part of my study abroad experience. My main purpose in going on my program was to improve my Spanish language skills. By the end of my trip, my accent had improved significantly, I was able to confidently read maps and menus and know exactly what they were saying, and I was able to hold conversations with native Spaniards with fluidity and without second-guessing my Spanish. Overall, my study abroad experience made me a more confident Spanish speaker and student.
While I was abroad, my favorite thing to do was explore the local neighborhoods where I was staying and to learn as much as I could about Spanish culture. Luckily, I was in Spain when the Euro Cup for soccer was taking place. In Spain, soccer is more of a way of life than it is a sport, so it was incredible to see how on nights when Spain had a game, one of the main roads was closed down and a giant television screen was brought out, so the whole town sat in the street together and watched the game. When it was dinnertime, which is significantly later in Spain than it is in the United States, my friends and I would go out for tapas. Tapas are smaller portions, and groups of people typically order all different kinds of tapas for the whole table to share. It is a social way of eating, and tapas are a focal point on any Spanish menu. During my time in Spain I also saw a Flamenco show, a type of dance performance that is native to Spain. The unique Spanish culture is something that I am so grateful to have been able to experience during my study abroad experience.
Overall, my study abroad experience is something that I will never forget. During my six weeks in Spain, I was able to travel to fifteen different cities in Spain as well as to two other countries. Studying abroad is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself, and it was the most incredible six weeks of my life.
Nicole Mellone, a current Education Abroad Student Ambassador, who studied abroad in Spain in Summer 2016