Why did you choose this program?
When I decided that I wanted to study abroad in Spain, I started looking into all the different programs that would be able to offer me this experience.
Out of all of the different programs, SOL Education stood out to me for several reasons. First, everything that the program included – activities, homestay, food, tuition. You practically only have to buy your plane ticket, and then you are set.
One of my favorite things about the program is how they have a schedule for each month outlined with daily activities that are already included within your initial tuition, but optional for you to attend. These are activities that, without a program like SOL, a student would have to seek out and research. How are they to do that though, if they don't know about it? That being said, since they are already paid for, you have more incentive to take advantage of the pre-planned and paid-for opportunity, and make the most of your cultural experience abroad.
The next deciding factor for me was how well they worked with my university when it came down to the transfer of credits and classes. Each time there was a change or concern, SOL representatives would go out of their way to confirm that my credits would transfer. On that tangent, any time I had a question, a SOL representative would go out of their way to look into my specific case and answer my question; I never had uncertainties about anything.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The program had practically laid out everything for us students! Included within the initial program payment is, of course, all the necessities such as the homestay, meals, school tuition, and advising. Not only have they arranged all of that for you ahead of time, but they also already have pre-planned cultural activities and excursions for you to take advantage of; this way, a student doesn't need to think about booking tickets (for example, for the Alahambra) months ahead of time, or spend days just trying to figure out what there is to do in their city.
The only things I had to organize on my own were plane tickets/ transportation, and any other extra activities or traveling that I wanted to do on my own.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Don't even think twice about going – do it! I was on the fence about going abroad this past summer, and now looking back, it's one of the best experiences I've ever had.
My second piece of advice would be to not stress the little things once you're there, and try to soak up every moment because it flies by faster than you think.
My third piece of advice would be to make the experience your own, and don't compare yours to others. Everyone's experience will differ enormously based on your homestay family, your professors, your classes, your roommate, etc, and it’s easy to start to compare with that of your friends'.
It's inevitable to hear about your friend's stories and to feel like you are missing out on something they have or vice versa, but it is so important to remember that this is your own experience. Make the best of it!
My last piece of advice would be to go to every activity and excursion SOL has planned for the duration of your trip. It might be overwhelming at first, but you will thank yourself endlessly because it may end up being one of your most favorite things on your study abroad. If it isn't, oh well, at least you can say you experienced it!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
My study abroad was for a total of two months (June-July). An average week during the first month was pretty busy: you have class all day, come home for a few hours for lunch and rest, go to the daily activity SOL has planned for you, and when you get back, eat and try to squeeze in your last bit of homework before class the next morning.
At first, when you are still getting used to everything, it can get a little overwhelming. However, I still encourage everyone to not siesta for too long, and to go to every SOL activity possible as it may turn out to be one of your favorite things you've done on your trip, and you will thank yourself in the end for doing it!
Towards the last few weeks of the first month and the beginning of the second month, things start to get more routine and you will start planning activities and trips of your own with friends. The second month, you will feel more like a local and less of a tourist and really get to experience the city in its fullest.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I've always been a person of routine, planning, and organization. One of my biggest fears going abroad was knowing that I would have to break that routine which means that I would not be able to eat my normal diet, exercise regularly at my preferred hour, or even know the other students who I would be spending my entire summer with.
I feared the unknown and how I would react under that. Turns out, my routine that I was so scared of changing didn't even exist in my new country! Ironically, it also turns out that this was maybe the best thing that could have happened to me. I learned to embrace the spontaneity of traveling and plans. I learned to absolutely love the lifestyle, values, new food, and culture.
Throughout this trip, I was able to get to know people from different states, countries, and backgrounds. When I look back at my time in Spain, I think of all the crazy, fun, memories I now have and how they wouldn't have happened without the hand of spontaneity and adventure. Now, back in Texas, I see the importance of living your life as it comes, with friends and family, rather than stressing about living a daily routine.