This trip will give you everything you could ever hope for in terms of quickly advancing your Spanish skills if you give it everything as well. In the beginning of my trip, one of my monitors, Olivia who I am currently in touch with, told us, "There are those who will leave this trip and have had an amazing time, and then there are others who will leave this trip having had an amazing, life changing experience."
It really matters how much effort you are willing to commit towards bettering your Spanish. If you put in the work, and try your best to speak Spanish even in the moments when it's the last thing on Earth you want to do, you will return from Spain a different person.
There are four different types of days/weeks you might have in this program. The first week will most likely consist of easy hikes, frequent group chats, amazing food, and the longest, yet most entertaining bus rides of your life. I can't even begin to explain how much fun my group had jamming out on the bus!
In the home stay, you will either have a class/internship day, or possibly a group outing. The group outing could be just the LITA students, or all of the families too, and will be filled with activities. A day with a class/internship consists of attending the class, eating a snack right before lunch, lunch, siesta, going to the pool or playing sports, dinner (at 9-10), and then going out with friends until late at night. We returned home most nights at 1:30 am which was hard to keep up with, but 100% worth the adventure-filled nights.
The Pyrenees are simple days. You wake up early, hike all day on very difficult terrain, and then find a "refugio" by around 6-8 pm where you eat and sleep. They are long, challenging days, but coming home from LITA I was so inspired by the hikes that I reached out to a hiking friend of mine and ended up going on a very nice hike!
In Barcelona the days are packed to the max with trips to the differing sections to interview the people, taste the food, take a dip in the Mediterranean sea, and shop a little.
I had two main fears. I feared my Spanish wouldn't be good enough and I wouldn't be able to communicate, and I feared I would not like my Spanish family.
I conquered the first fear quickly. The first week of the trip prepped me well. My group made a pact to try and speak Spanish all of the time, so by the time I met my host family, I felt more warmed up with the language. The leaders of my group also reassured us that it is better to talk and mess up, then to not communicate at all. Sure my Spanish wasn't perfect, but the people I communicated with always understood what I was trying to say.
As for my family, I couldn't have been happier. Jordan and Michela went above and beyond when pairing me with my family. I had two sisters, a mother, and a dad who was abroad that couldn't have taken better care of me. In fact, my Spanish sister and I grew so close I plan on having her come and stay with me this coming summer.
This is a question I am often asked, and my response is always the same: the people. This experience encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and be as sociable as possible. I chatted with tour guides, bus drivers, our photographer Ester, random people on the street, my sister's friends, grandparents, cousins, anyone I could talk to in order to practice my Spanish.
It didn't feel like a task to practice my Spanish because the people I practiced with made it enjoyable. Even the people in my LITA group were some of the most interesting, kind-hearted people I have ever met. My two leaders, Ilan and Olivia are some of my favorite people I have ever met.
One of the hardest things I've had to do recently is say goodbye to the people in my Spanish town and the people in my LITA group. I have made bonds this summer that will last a lifetime, and hope that anyone fortunate enough experience LITA, chooses LITA.