Ashley participated in the Spanish Summer Immersion Program in 2018. She stayed four weeks in a homestay in La Rioja. In that short time, Ashley not only developed her language skills, but also gained an appreciation for other cultures and made friends from around the world.
Why did you choose your program and destination?
I completed a Spanish minor throughout my degree, and inadvertently met Professor Luz Janeth Ospina. She highly recommended a four week summer immersion program in Spain, as a way to not only learn more about the language and culture, but work on refining my speaking skills in daily life. I feel strongly about the value that learning multiple languages has, and I was thrilled to have this opportunity to take my Spanish to the next level, while living abroad!
What was the most memorable experience of your time abroad?
My most memorable experience was learning about the downtown life that each Spanish city has. The streets of tapas bars were fantastic, and being able to pop into each bar and grab a bite of something different to eat was incredibly fun. It was a great way to learn more about the niches of Spanish culture while meeting new friends.
Were there any challenges? How did you overcome or cope with them?
Absolutely. I lived with a wonderful host family, who neither understood nor spoke English. I had never been in a completely immersive situation, and that was difficult to adjust to. I learned how frustrating it is to want to express yourself, and not being able to, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for immigrants to my own country who learn English as a second language. I coped with this challenge by taking some time each week to speak English with friends or family as a break, and otherwise just doing my best and keeping notes on the new words I learned every day!
Has this education abroad experience helped you personally, academically or professionally?
This experience helped me develop skills in communicating effectively, whether in English or Spanish, and skills in understanding and truly appreciating the realities of another cultural way of life.
Personally, I became more confident in speaking Spanish, and more open to making mistakes and accepting them as learning experiences.
I am pursuing a career in medicine, and I believe my experiences learning abroad have developed my capacities in a second language in a way that will benefit me professionally.
What was your experience like when you returned home?
As expected, I felt that the trip was too short, as I was finally in the third-fourth week becoming really comfortable with living my daily life in Spanish and not needing to escape to speak English. However, I was grateful to return home and tell my family and friends all about the incredible culture and the mind-blowing experiences I had while living in Spain.
I will always value the skills I learned on this trip, and the personal and professional development opportunities it gave me.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
It was the trip of a lifetime, and I wouldn't change a thing. I came into it with pure excitement, mostly to travel to a new place. I underestimated how much I would learn and how far I would grow in confidence with the language, so that was a huge bonus. I made friends from all over the world, not just Spain, and learned interpersonal skills between many different cultures and languages over and above the transition from Canada to Spain.
Would you recommend trying an education abroad program to other students?
100%. It may seem intimidating, and I promise you will feel frustrated and a little scared dropping yourself into a new life, even if it is only for a month. However, it is worth it on every level, and not only will help you grow and develop as an individual, it will fill you with the most wonderful experiences that you will never forget.
My advice: if you have the opportunity to do something that scares you, do it. You'll learn, you'll become better, and you'll never regret it.