The study abroad I participated in was the four-week program to Madrid, Spain. I decided to participate in this program because I wanted to practice my Spanish. My parents are both from Panama, so I grew up within a Hispanic household. However, in my upbringing, I heard a lot of references to Spain and wanted to experience the country and culture for myself.
I studied abroad later than most students that decide to study abroad as an undergraduate student. Throughout my undergraduate career, I had always wanted to study abroad, but I always hesitated because I was confident that I would be unable to afford it and did not want to place my parents in another expense. However, after an information session about receiving a minor and getting the opportunity to study abroad, this was a desire that I couldn’t ignore anymore.
The most surprising aspect of studying abroad in Spain was how little Spanish I knew. Although I have taken countless Spanish classes throughout my life, three of those classes that took place in Binghamton, I didn’t know as much as I thought I would. I think it was surprising how much I took for granted being fluent in English in the United State until I traveled to a place where English was not the first language. It was only then that I realized how hard it must be for those in the United States that don’t speak English and the survival skills it must take to live in a country where you are fluent.
My biggest challenge during my experience abroad was speaking Spanish. Although I am very good at grammar and vocabulary, I am not comfortable in having conversations. This program forced me to come out of my comfort zone and forced me to speak in Spanish because I needed to in order to get by. I am also an introverted person, so it was also a challenge to meet so much people in such a small amount of time and try to make friends. The most rewarding part of this program was the multiple excursions. Within the excursions, I could travel to other cities within Spain like Segovia and Toledo, and with a tour guide, I could learn about the history and the culture.
I also had the opportunity to have free time and experience the city on my own and get to visit places that interested me during the tour with the tour guide. I decided to study abroad because it was a requirement for my global studies minor. I felt that even though I had to stay an extra semester in order to study abroad, I felt that it was worth it because I will never be left wondering what if. The experience was worth it and I don’t regret doing it. I could receive a cultural understanding that I wouldn’t have received if I didn’t study abroad.
I would encourage other students to study abroad because it was an experience that changed my life. Not only did I have the chance to travel on my own and grow more independent. Some of the things that I really enjoyed were the food, like paella and empanadas. I also enjoyed taking pictures and being able to capture a moment that I will be able to cherish forever. Overall, my study abroad experience was amazing and I can’t wait to travel abroad again.
Khadijah Boxill, a Psychology and Africana Studies major, studied on the Spain: Spanish Language & Culture program during summer 2017.