How has this experience impacted your future?
Sarah: I was lucky to live with a host family - a mom and a dad who are both businesspeople and three siblings - and go to university in addition to my classes at CC-CS. Living as a Sevillana and truly appreciating the city and the people for what they are gave me an entirely new and wonderful experience.
I am now certain than I will apply to serve in the Peace Corps and look for other teaching jobs abroad. I am meant to live outside the US and learn and grow in different cultures. I love the world and I'll never stop wanting to see more of it. It's all out there and beautifully real and I can experience it if I can step outside my comfort zone. I owe much of my new perspective (aka life changing experience) to my host family.
Describe your program socially and academically.
Sarah: Spanish Studies Abroad does a good job of scheduling lots of events for students to participate in throughout the semester. From the classes on dance and cooking, to visiting the archeology museum, to getting a group discount to see a flamenco show. There were also lots of day trips like Aracena and weekend getaways, including Morocco and Portugal. Participating in many of these events was really important to me, as I got to see the city and travel with my new friends and with our professors too.
All classes are held in the same beautiful building, and are all taught by native speakers with a lot of passion for teaching. Getting to work with such people made it really fun to be actually studying and learning! It really wore me (and the professors that I talked to) down when other students were uninterested in things like homework and visits to historic sites, but we're all adults who have to make decisions about our experiences. I for one do not regret any money or time spent on seeing the sights in the beautiful city I called home for 4 months.
Where was your best photo taken and what was it of?
Sarah: My favorite photo of myself is from the weekend in Lagos, Portugal. My dear friend Rachel waded out into the cold water with my iPhone to get a photo of me on a rock, and it turned out so well! The lighting is perfect, the water is gorgeous and crystal clear, and I was so happy in that moment that it really shows. Every time I see the photo I smile.
Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?
Sarah: I got to live with a beautiful host family in a vibrant area of the city. As a student at the university, I got to participate in their academic culture. I truly believe that I got a more genuine experience than some of my classmates who, for example, lived in an apartment and didn't go to class, because I got to talk to Sevillan@s regularly.
Besides the obvious improvement in my Spanish, we had very real conversations about things that were happening in the city, from drinking to the government. If you don't want a local's perspective, you can easily avoid it. However if you're open to the experience, I found it extremely gratifying to really understand life in the city and all its ups and downs. And as I mentioned, all of this really contributed to my decisions about my future.
Do you think your program changed you as a person?
Sarah: The program was great, as I mentioned, filled with great people and activities and opportunities for growth. However when I say that study abroad changed me as a person, I cannot forget to mention how incredible my host family is. They took me in right from the start. After teaching me the word tiquismisquis (picky eater!) they were extremely accommodating and helpful in every way. And not just with food, with everything. Any questions or doubts, when I was afraid or homesick, they were there.
I don't have sufficient words for how grateful I am for them. Having a support system and a family to come home to after a hard day of class or a long trip was wonderful. My three siblings were sweet and they made me feel comfortable. I grew to appreciate their life and their city in a deeper way because I was able to be a part of their family.
I know that I can never repay them for the kindness that they showed me; they gave me the tools I needed as a young student to truly appreciate Seville for all its many features. Not to mention the improvement in my Spanish! There are so many memories and pieces of my experience that wouldn't be what they are without my lovely family. They helped me change my life by changing my perspective.