Alumni Spotlight: Gabrielle Susoiu


Gabrielle Susoiu is a freshman in college who has participated in the Sol Abroad summer program in 2018. She has studied Spanish for five years and she enjoys learning other languages on her own, such as French, Italian, German, Greek, Portuguese, Arabic, and Russian. Gabrielle loves to learn about different cultures around the world.

Why did you choose this program?

When I started taking Spanish in ninth grade, I fell in love with the language. I enjoyed learning all aspects of the language, and I wanted to find opportunities for immersion into the Spanish language. After going on a trip to Mexico for spring break, I realized that the best way to learn the language was to be exposed to it.

Then my Spanish teacher introduced me to Sol Abroad, and I was thrilled about the programs it had to offer.
I decided to participate in Sol Abroad the summer before my 12th grade year, so that I would be more experienced with the language. I made an excellent decision to participate in Sol Abroad!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Sol Abroad organized the language programs at the University of Granada, the cultural activities, the host families, transportation and the hotel that we stayed at in Madrid for a couple nights. The host families provided all three meals. I had to book the airplane tickets on my own. I was also responsible for figuring out my cellphone data and exchanging money.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Participating in a language program is very exciting, but it may also make people nervous at first. My advice is to not be afraid to speak the target language. The locals are very understanding and they will not mind if you make mistakes.

After all, mistakes are the the best way to learn. When I used my Spanish in Spain, the people appreciated that I was communicating to them in their language. Another piece of advice is to enjoy immersing in the culture and to maintain an open mind while traveling.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

On weekdays, I would wake up at around seven in the morning and have breakfast with my host family. Then I attended Spanish language courses at the University of Granada from nine to one. The Spanish classes I took focused on grammar, and they were also very discussion-based.

After classes, I had lunch with my host family, and then I had some time to relax, do my homework and spend time with my peers and host.

In the evening, I participated in a cultural activity around Granada. We went to a new place every evening. For example, we saw a flamenco performance, visited the Capilla Real, cooked paella, sampled local cuisine, participated in a scavenger hunt, went to a tea house, relaxed in the Arabian baths, and much more.

The weekends consisted of day trips. One weekend, we went zip-lining, followed by the water park. Another time we went to visit Picasso's museum and birthplace, followed by a trip to the beach. We even hiked in the Sierra Nevada mountains!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was flying alone. It was the first time that I have ever been on an airplane without my family. I was worried that I would lose all my important documents, lose my luggage, go on the wrong airplane, or miss the plane. I organized my papers in a folder and had the folder with me at all times. I also put a tag on my luggage in order to identify it. Most importantly, I made sure I arrived at the airport on time. After this experience, I feel more confident about flying independently.

What did you like the most in the program?

I really enjoyed interacting with the other participants in the program. They were high school students from different parts of the United States. I formed friendships and memories during this trip. In between classes and evening cultural activities, we got to go out.

We explored the shops around Granada, sampled an immense amount of gelato, enjoyed churros and listened to some live rock music. Granada is a lively and bustling city. Overall, the trip was an unforgettable experience!