Jennifer is from Evansville, Indiana. While pursuing her degree from the University of Southern Indiana, she studied abroad with World Endeavors at the University of Valladolid in Spain.
What made you want to study abroad and, specifically, why study in Spain?
I absolutely love learning about and experiencing new and different cultures.
I specifically chose Spain because of its take on the Spanish language. I was also drawn by its rich historical heritage. I wanted to experience Spanish-speaking culture in a place that is different from the Latin American experience. I wanted to develop a well-rounded perspective and high level of understanding of the Spanish-speaking world.
How did you hear about World Endeavors, and why did you choose World Endeavors over other programs?
I heard about World Endeavors through the international office at our local university. I chose World Endeavors because the program it offered was complete. Everything I wanted for my study abroad experience was available to me. Most of all, though, the people were very pleasant and worked hard to make sure everything was organized. My advisor was absolutely excellent! Her expertise and delightful people skills were exactly what sealed the deal, making World Endeavors my final decision.
How do you feel looking back on your experience in Spain?
I am so passionate about cross-cultural exchanges that a small but significant part of me remains in every place that I am blessed to have the opportunity to experience. I am determined to be informed and educated so I can give of myself individually and culturally. People are beautiful; so unique and so diverse. God is such a Genius! He creates nothing short of masterpieces worldwide. I am committed to being a well rounded citizen of the world.
What was your first impression of Spain?
It was starkly different than everything I was accustomed to.
Tell us about your homestay.
Mi madre a mi era una persona muy Hermosa. She was a business woman with outstanding principles. She valued my time, my heart and my educational experience. I feel so blessed to have ended up with her. She was so versed in the cultural and historical aspects of her country. She would walk me through the street of Valladolid and just tell me story after story, fact after fact; it was absolutely fulfilling and educational. We attended several masses at various edifices and had awesome delectable meals and meal time conversations, as well as with a few of her friends.
Did your Spanish improve over the course of the semester?
YES! Tremendously. I was confused about some topics because everything I’d learned before just wasn’t gelling in my brain, so to speak.
Tell me about the school you attended.
The school I attended did not seem to be very technologically advanced, but the instruction was excellent. The methods and teaching styles used were very on point and relevant for students learning Spanish as a foreign language. Things were taught systematically and in a way that was engaging and fun. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I was the only person in any of my classes that was like me. I was not only the only American, but also the only African American student. This made my classroom experience all the more exciting and interesting. I was able to make new (human, social, and academic) connections with students and people from all around the world. Due to this experience, I was able to glean several invaluable nuggets of knowledge, as well as cultural interactions with people of varying ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
How was the food in Spain? What food do you miss the most?
The food in Spain was excellent! My host mom was a very good cook. There were restaurants, cafes, tapas bars, helado (ice cream) shops, etc, on every street and around every corner. They typically had tables and chairs outside. The streets were always bustling with people shopping, eating, drinking and sharing moments with friends and loved ones.
Tell me about a typical day for you from the time you got up until the time you went to sleep.
A typical day consisted of rising early, eating breakfast and getting dressed for class. During the first week I walked 30 minutes to and from school everyday. It was great exercise as well as gave me a chance to observe the many people and places that were the face of Valladolid. I went to class during the first half of every weekday and walked the streets of Valladolid by afternoon and night. I would go out, alone at first, and visit small shops: go to the supermarkets and cafes and head to a few of the many festivals that took place during the first week.
After the first week, I then walked about 4 blocks to the bus, as I moved homes and walking was no longer an option. I was close to some of my classmates and therefore began to hang out and study with them after class. I also made friends with some of the local people and participated in language exchange. After class I would have lunch with my host mom, then she would nap and I would go out. I returned home sometimes to go on walks with her while she explained the history and surroundings to me. We would grab a treat, visit beautiful edifices, or go to various boutiques. We would go home and talk about the news, watch a movie, or practice conversational Spanish and then eat dinner. My days varied greatly from one day to the next, as I tried to get as much in as I could with a diverse range of people. I did, however, always make time for my host mom. Every weekend the University took students on volunteer trips to other cities and provinces. I participated in every weekend trip.
Did you get to do any traveling?
Through the program that the school had set up specifically for our classes, we were able to travel outside of Valladolid every weekend as a group. The focus of our group travels was culture and history.
What advice would you give someone traveling abroad?
Dive in! Leave your preconceived notions on the shelf at home. Engage the culture head on and do not only sight see, but also learn and glean as much as you can. Absorb all the elements of the culture that have the potential to expand you as an individual and world citizen. Participate to better understand your own depth and capacity. Finally, have fun and make connections that last a lifetime.
Most important thing you gained from your time abroad:
Oh, wow… I gained so many things that it’s hard to pinpoint one specifically. I can honestly say that I would not have the mindset I have right now without the experiences I had abroad I’ve been totally reshaped as a person. The changes began with my education, but were solidified by my time abroad. I had my “aha” moments which empowered me and imparted a clear vision for my future. I faced challenges that illuminated inner strength and ability that I didn’t know existed, and much, much more.
What do you miss about Spain now that you’re back?
I miss all of my new friends and family, as well as the educational and cultural experience. Also, though it’s not what I would call diverse, it’s a country diverse in its own right and by its own standards. For example people who looked like me were rare, but people from other race, creeds, nationalities, languages, cultures, etc were present. I miss the diversity of Spain! I also miss the food! It was amazing to me how cheap the food was in Spain, and I admired the freshness and selection of specific food items. The produce and fresh markets were amazing. The seafood selection was also outstanding.
Anything else you wish to share?
THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!