As my trip to Barcelona for the CIEE Spanish Language and Culture program approached, I was incredibly nervous. My only experience away from home had been at summer camps an hour away, and I had grown up seeing the same kids every summer. This trip would be totally out of my comfort zone – but I had no idea how much I needed to go.
The CIEE staff were super helpful and welcoming, and from Day 1 emphasized that we could contact them in the case of any emergency. I never needed to contact my Program Leader, but it was super reassuring to know that she was there for me 24/7. My host mom also made sure that I could reach her at all times – she was a single mom with a teenage daughter, and both of them went out of their way to ensure that my roommate and I had an incredible experience in Barcelona. Our family dinners every night were one of my favorite parts of the trip, where we would enjoy delicious food and strengthen our Spanish skills by talking about our day.
Although my roommate and I were placed in different Spanish classes (based on a test and an interview), we still spent tons of time together, and are best friends to this day. I really liked the other students in my class, and learned tons of Spanish daily, both from my Program Leader during our morning activity and from my teacher during afternoon classes. While my grammar and vocabulary improved during the afternoon, my appreciation for Spanish culture increased each morning. Whether we were taking a flamenco class, touring gorgeous Gaudi houses, or walking through historic neighborhoods, I always was able to try something new and have fun with my friends. Getting to meet new people was also a highlight of my trip. CIEE students came from across the country, but we all found shared interests to connect over, whether it was a love of thrifting or a desire to see as many museums as possible.
Now that I'm home, not only has my Spanish improved enough that I was moved from Level 3 to AP Spanish, but I also feel more confident and excited to try new activities and experiences. I'm still in touch with many of my friends from CIEE as well as my host family, and am planning on meeting up with my roommate during our Spring Break, and potentially seeing more friends when I travel during the summer as well.