Alumni Spotlight: Chandler Oliphant

Why did you decide to study abroad with API in Seville, Spain?

Chandler Oliphant studying abroad in Spain with API

Chandler: I studied abroad with API in Seville, Spain in the Spring of 2011 for a few different reasons. To begin with, as an English and Spanish double-major, I had a strong desire to contextualize all of the cultural information that I had learned about over the years in my high school and college classes. Even more importantly, though, I had a strong desire to improve my language proficiency.

I wanted to approach my goal of being bilingual, and I knew that the best way to do so was to immerse myself in the Spanish language and culture - to breathe the former, absorb the latter, and digest them both day in and day out on the streets, in my host family's home, and in the classrooms of la Universidad Pablo de Olavide.

I specifically chose to go to Seville (as opposed to the other wonderful Spanish cities) in the Spring (rather than the Fall) because the city is famous for its two large-scale spring-time celebrations: Semana Santa and Feria. It is also home to one of the world's largest (and most beautiful) cathedrals, the Real Alcázar, the Guadalquivir River, Columbus' Torre de Oroand among many other historically-significant landmarks and buildings, the Plaza de España.

After hearing so much about all of this from textbooks and class discussions, I decided that it was my turn to explore and experience everything first-hand, to write my own "book" by traveling and learning from each moment. Furthermore, I was attracted to Seville not only because it is in sunny Andalusia - in the south of Spain, close to the beach, and blessed with warm weather, - but also because it is manageable. As a small-town girl from the Jersey Shore, I was hesitant about living in an overwhelmingly large city like Barcelona, but I was also hesitant about potentially limiting myself in a small town. Seville was the perfect balance - a "happy-medium" - for it offered a lot. Although it is a relatively large city (there was ALWAYS something to see and something to do), it is also quaint, livable, and extremely easy to get around (both within Seville and Spain at large).

In terms of studying with API, I am forever indebted to them because they have given me the best experience of my life. The program coordinators become family members, and everything is extremely well organized, which consequently, provides students with an invaluable sense of comfort. The excursions were amazing and the activities we did on the excursions will stay with me forever. Thanks to API, I was able to live authentically, comfortably, and happily in my host city and country, learning more than I could have ever dreamed about Spain, the world, and myself.

What made your study abroad experience unique and special?

Chandler: This question is impossible because each and every second was special and had the potential to tell a story. However, if I had to choose one general part of my special, unique, and enriching experience (out of the billions that manifested themselves), I would have to say that it was the people I met and the relationships I built over the months I spent in Spain.

From my host mom (Máma Concha), her dog Chapu (yes, he was like my brother, and therefore I had a relationship with him too), and my "hermana" Hannah, to the boatload of other friends that I made from all over Spain, the USA, and the rest of the world, I now have limitless memories. Each one of these memories is connected to a familiar place, face, or experience that continues to resonate with me today and that will continue to resonate with me for the remainder of my life.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Chandler: This experience has changed me for the better in numerous ways. For one, it has made me more confident and independent, not only in terms of traveling, but also, in terms of living. I have garnered a stronger sense of personal values and have adopted a stronger appreciation for quality of life. I have also learned how to relax while learning - to open my eyes and my heart to everything and everyone. This consequently enabled me to realize that there is an opportunity to learn from each experience that we face, no matter how small it may seem. Along the same lines, one of the most valuable things that I learned from my study abroad experience is that life is beautiful in the present moment - that being present is being alive.

In regards to how this experience has changed me professionally and academically, I have developed a hunger to return to Spain and to travel more - to see more of the world and more of the country that I have come to call my second home. More specifically, I have discovered that I want to teach either ESL or Spanish in the future, especially since I volunteered teaching ESL classes to Spanish adults while I was in Seville. I am currently waiting to hear back from the Fulbright program (I applied for an ETA (English Teaching Assistantship) in Ecuador), as well as the "Auxiliares de Conversación" program run through Spain's Ministry of Education (I applied for a grant to teach for a year in Spain). Also, I improved my Spanish tremendously as a result of this program, and for that I am very grateful.