When I hear someone contemplating going abroad, I tell them not to hesitate - they simply MUST GO!
A couple of the main concerns I have heard include the financial burden and being away from loved ones. My advice for students is: take out a loan for your trip if that’s what it takes, because they can be spendy. My mother really encouraged me to go abroad during my undergraduate years and so I took out a loan to pay for my 5 week trip.
I didn’t fully realize the freedom you have in your schedule as a student. However, now as a member of the full time work force, I am saddened to admit that the opportunity to immerse myself in another culture for any period of time longer than a week no longer exists for me! My biggest regret is not spending more time abroad as a student – I wish I had gone on another month-long excursion or even a full semester in a Spanish speaking country.
This experience was unique and special because as a student learning Spanish, we were encouraged to abstain from using English for the duration of our 5 week program. While it was challenging waking up hearing our host mother speak to us in Spanish, we had no choice but to spark our brainwaves and speak back to her in our second language – it was our only option because she did not speak English!
While this may seem daunting, immersion is the most effective way of enhancing your language speaking abilities. Despite the challenge, it was one of the most personally rewarding experiences of my life. I was one of the stronger Spanish speakers within our group, and a lot of my peers relied on me to communicate for them. I took advantage of every opportunity to speak, and I felt so proud of myself after realizing how much my skills had grown and I could communicate my everyday needs in a foreign country!
Some of my big learning experiences included: successfully completing a clothing return at a department store, and approaching a group of young Spaniards in a bar and joining in on their Spanish version of my favorite game: Trivial Pursuit!