Why did you decide to study abroad with API in Seville, Spain?
Mary: I have wanted to go to Spain to study since I was fifteen years old. I have taken Spanish classes since kindergarten, and while in high school my desire to experience the Spanish culture grew even more. I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad there.
My university, Marist College offers a very popular program for Spanish majors like myself in Madrid, but I wanted to be in a smaller city and study abroad without anyone else who attended my home university. I chose Sevilla for several reasons, firstly because it is a fairly large city but much smaller than Madrid and Barcelona, the climate is always mild or warm, and the south of Spain is known for its gorgeous Moorish architecture.
The fusion of the Spanish culture with the old Moorish world is something that stood out to me when I studied Spanish history. I studied at Universidad de Sevilla, which in itself is a historical place. The university, an old Tobacco factory where the famous opera Carmen took place is filled with open ceiling, fountains, and grand staircases. It was certainly an interesting way to go to class everyday.
I chose A.P.I. because they had a strong relationship with my school and I had heard great things. When I talked to representatives at my on campus abroad fair, they were so friendly and resourceful. A.P.I. gave me a peer mentor, who made all the difference. Planning to study abroad without knowing anyone had made me a little bit nervous, so I had many questions to ask my mentor. She took the time to answer my questions in a two page long email and kept in touch with me from there on out.
When I arrived in Spain, my program director was at the airport right on time and I became acquainted with the other students in the group very quickly. I’m glad I picked A.P.I. because they made me feel comfortable, not to mention their excursions around Spain and to Morocco were amazing!
What made your study abroad experience unique and special?
Mary: Every student who gets the opportunity to study abroad has a unique experience and mine was certainly very special to me. I had the opportunity to travel throughout Spain and to Portugal, Morocco, Ireland, England, and Italy. I went to some of these places with my entire A.P.I. group and others with just one or two individuals.
Traveling with different people always made each experience unique. The other American students I met through A.P.I. had mostly come on their own as well, which I think made them more open to adventures and also encouraged me to do the same. I still talk to some of the friends I have met abroad, especially my friend Alex who I am fortunate enough to have living in the next state, so we have been able to visit one another several times. The friendships students make abroad are truly unforgettable!
The most unique part about my experience in Sevilla was very unexpected. I went to Spain knowing I would love it, but it went far beyond my expectations. My friend Marielle, convinced me to go to out to a place I had never been and introduced me to several of her Spanish friends, all whom I became close with, and one who I have been dating for about a year now.
An international love story was not a chapter of my abroad experience I would have outlined before, but I do not regret a single moment! I owe my boyfriend Juan for many of the happy moments I experienced while in Spain, and for other great joys we have experienced as he has visited the U.S.
I owe the other friends I have made in Sevilla for many laughs and smiles, some of the greatest which I recall during the Feria, Sevilla’s week long festival. The week of Feria, I wore a traditional flamenco dress, learned how to dance “sevillanas,” ate tapas and drank Spanish mazanilla, and stayed out until seven in the morning with my friends. This is something I will never, ever forget. I truly know Sevilla is not only a place I lived in for a while, but a real home, and I owe that to the friends I made there. I will be back there this summer to visit, and just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Mary: My abroad experience has changed me in more ways that I have ever imagined, all ways that I see as positive. I see things now from a global perspective and always wonder how current events affect the world, and not just the United States. Having friends in other places makes these places seem much more real and alive in my mind. Also, being in a long distance relationship with someone from Spain has helped me learn about myself and made me into a more understanding person and a better communicator. I see this as a vital skill in life.
My abroad experience also helped me from a professional perspective. I achieved my goal of improving my Spanish and I would like to improve even more. I also volunteered at a nursing home while in Sevilla on several occasions, which further assured me that I would love to work with the elderly.
Ideally, I would like to combine my passion of speaking Spanish with my passion for working with older people. My goal is to pursue a Master’s degree in the Geriatric field and eventually become an administrator of an elderly facility, homecare agency, or nonprofit organization in an area where there are a high concentration of Spanish speakers.
Wherever my career takes me, I think knowing Spanish is an essential skill for any American today, as the Spanish speaking population increases. Wherever my career path takes me, my experience in Spain was just the beginning of a relationship, with an amazing place, people I really care about, and a language I have always loved.