MLLI major (Spanish)
I chose to study in Spain, specifically Granada, for many reasons. First and foremost I used the fact that I am a Spanish major and wanted to increase my fluency to narrow down the country selection process to Spanish speaking countries. That left Spain and almost all of Central and South America, but fortunately because of my Russian minor and my desire to go to a university that offered Russian courses as well, I found my search leading me to Spain. In Spain I knew that I wanted to avoid big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, but not end up in a small pueblo with a population of 100 people either. I came across Granada and was enticed by its Moorish architectural charm and the setting of a small, compact city nestled within the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
I found that ISA, one of many study abroad programs, offered a complete homestay, classes and excursions package and even had a Winter/Spring semester option. The Winter Semester consisted of one 4-credit, intensive Spanish grammar course, and adding that onto a normal Spring Semester allowed me to stay in the country for five months. While there, I nearly finished my Spanish major save two upper-level Spanish courses that I am required to take at UMBC (SPAN401 and 421). I took the equivalents of SPAN307 and 311, which are Spanish history/culture and literature classes (where better to take those than in Spain itself) and Spanish to English Translation, Spanish Speaking and Writing and a Spanish Grammar class as upper-level electives. In the end, even though Russian led me to choose Spain, I did not end up taking any Russian courses in order to focus on my Spanish.
Academically speaking, my Spanish improved a great deal, and I will be able to utilize everything I learned, from reviews of grammar to knowledge of poetry, for the rest of my career. My personal growth can be seen in a higher level of independence, responsibility and a spirit of adventure. This was the first time I left the United States and the first time I did not see my parents for more than two weeks. I made my own travel plans, kept a budget so that I could still experience Spain without running out of money, and developed an even greater desire to see more of the world. I also became a more cultured individual, for seeing is truly believing, and even though I previously learned about the Spanish, Moroccan and gypsy cultures that I encountered in Granada, I have acquired a better understanding of them by residing in that area and meeting them in person. Furthermore, I became more confident in my Spanish-speaking skills as I have held many conversations and written many papers in the language. Living in Spain and knowing that I am able to make phone calls, talk to store clerks, make hair cut appointments, etc. shows me how much I have improved and makes me more certain that I will be able to find a job with these skills after college.
All in all I would highly encourage anyone to study abroad. Like many have said before me, it is truly a life-changing experience. Living, not just vacationing, in a foreign country really puts a new perspective on things as you develop a special connection to the place you are staying. Not only is it an excellent way to start or finish learning a foreign language, which will in turn facilitate your communication with a greater amount of people, but it also changes you and shapes you as a person. When you return I assure you that you will not be the same as when you left. After all, it’s impossible to live in a different country and see new parts of the world without gaining something from the experience.