University: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Major: Sociology of Law, Criminology and Deviance
Program: Intern – Spain
Program Location: Valencia, Spain
How do you feel looking back on your experience in Spain?
It was truly the most amazing experience of my life. I learned so much about the culture. I met friends from all over the world, and I learned a lot about myself.
Did you have any reservations before leaving for Spain?
Of course. I had never been out of the country, it was the longest I was ever going to be away from my parents, and I was not confident in my Spanish speaking abilities.
Most important thing you gained from your time abroad:
I learned a lot about myself, since I essentially took this trip alone. And I learned to live in the moment and take chances.
What made you want to go abroad and specifically why in Spain?
I always knew I would love traveling, so I figured out a way to do it. I chose Spain because I already spoke a little Spanish and wanted to improve my language skills. I chose Spain over other Spanish-speaking countries because I knew in Europe I would be able to travel to more places and meet a wider variety of people once I was there.
How did you hear about World Endeavors, and why did you choose WE over other programs?
I first saw your program through the University of Minnesota with a volunteer trip to Ghana, so then I looked into the organization and I liked that you could make it more individualized then a lot of school sponsored trips.
What was your first impression of Valencia?
I thought it was beautiful. I was lucky because my apartment was near the beach, so I got to see that right away. I had a lot of difficult speaking and my first impression was that a lot of people wouldn’t understand me and wouldn’t be able to speak English.
How did your first impressions/nervousness (if any) change from when you arrived to when you left?
I got more confident in speaking to people. The people were all so nice, all over Valencia. So, a lot of time they would try to meet you half way. They were patient when I tried to speak Spanish and they would try to speak English when they could.
Tell me about where you lived. Did it add to your experience? Do you have any interesting or special moments from the people you lived with?
I lived a ten minute walk from the beach in Valencia. I think it was wonderful because I wasn’t overwhelmed by the center of the city, and it was more of a family neighborhood so I felt very safe. It was also very close to all the discotecas (clubs) that were near the beach. I lived with another girl from the United States and I took all my side trips, except one, with her. We were able to get very close, and I’m even planning to visit her in the Spring!
Did you have any trouble with language barriers?
Yes, my Spanish was not strong when I arrived so at first it was very frustrating, especially since the Spanish we learn here in the US is very different then what they use in Spain. So, even when I was “speaking Spanish” it was hard for Spanish speakers to understand me. In addition, my other roommate was from Japan and he spoke barely any English, so if I needed to communicate with him we had to speak in Spanish. With his Japanese accent speaking in Spanish and my broken Spanish it could sometimes be very frustrating. We ended up resorting to leaving notes.
Tell me about the language school you attended.
Everyone at the school was very nice. It was really hard at first because you can’t speak any English (which is fair because not everyone speaks English). They were helpful in setting up events and helping you meet people to go explore the city with. The classroom environment was very friendly and they rotated teachers so you got a lot of variety. School went very fast most days.
Tell me about a typical day for you from the time you got up until the time you went to sleep.
Well the first two weeks I had Spanish class. So, I would get up, take the metro, and go to class for 3-4 hours. Then, after that I would either walk to the city center or go to the beach, since there was so many hours of sunshine there, you could get to the beach around 3:00 pm and get plenty of sun!
Once I started my internship I only worked Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Most of those days would consist of waking up, going to work, and then the receptionist at my work would drive me home for “siesta” (the 2-3 hour break in the middle of the day), and then I would come back to work for a couple more hours. On days I had off, I really liked to spend my time at the beach, or I extended my weekend trips. For example, one weekend I left for a trip to Italy on Friday and didn’t have to return till Tuesday morning.
How did you get around?
To the school and my internship I would take the metro. It was very efficient. To the store and to the beach I would just walk because they were so close. I had two grocery stores within 4 blocks of me!
How did your time in Spain impact you?
Living in Spain for two months definitely helped me to learn a lot about myself. It showed me that I can move to a new country and find my way. One of my favorite sayings that I learned in Spain was “No pasa nada.” They said it to everything, and it essentially means “it doesn’t matter” or “don’t worry about it.” I learned to take things slow, embrace everything around me, and realized that I don’t need to worry about every move I’m making. I learned to live more in the moment.
What are you doing now? Do you have future travels plans?
I’m looking at some graduate schools in Europe because I’m dying to go back, as well as, teaching English in Southeast Asia. I definitely caught the travel bug and don’t think I’ll be able to sit still for long.
Number one story you love to tell about your time abroad:
My favorite story about being abroad was my trip to Ibiza. I had two friends from home who were studying in Italy, so on Fourth of July weekend they came to visit me for one day, and then we went to Ibiza (a small island of the coast of Valencia, known for it’s parties) for two days with one of the friends I had met in Spain. On our second night in Ibiza we went to a really famous club called, Pacha. They have them all over the world, but the one in Ibiza is the original! We had so much dancing and enjoying the company of people from all over the world, that when we left the club and walked outside, the sun was coming up. We walked back to our hostel and onto the beach and watched the sun come up. The mixture of the fun we had been having and the incredible beauty of the island was just the most amazing experience of my whole life, and I was so lucky I got to enjoy it with such great friends.
Number one challenge about being abroad:
I definitely got home sick at a certain point. Being in a country where they don’t speak your language can get frustrating. Also, I’m really close to my mom, so being away from her that long, and barely being able to talk because of the time difference was frustrating.
What advice would you give someone traveling abroad?
Take every opportunity you get. I didn’t think I would like going to Madrid, and it was at the bottom of my list to go, but one day some people I went to school with were like “hey lets go to Madrid after class.” And I did it! It was one of my favorite trips I took while I was there, and I fell in love with Madrid. You’ll regret missing out on something and experiencing something new. Don’t let anything scare you.