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Highlight: Home stay family
Best Excursion: Portugal
Favorite Dish: sopa con pescado
Least Favorite Dish: blood sausage (Morcilla)
(Donita with her mother(L) and host mother (R))
What was one challenge you faced? How did you deal with this challenge?
One challenge that I faced was being homesick. Before Spain, I had never really been that far away from home for that long by myself. I knew that it would be a problem because I turned 21 in Spain, and before then I had spent every birthday (or at least a celebration) with my mother. I was pretty down and homesick on my birthday, which was really rough to get through. I was struggling with communicating and didn’t really know how to express my feelings. But later on that day, my host family got me an ice cream cake and my host mom hand-made me a scarf that also happened to be my favorite color. Later on I went out with some other people from the program and just enjoyed myself. The best way to overcome homesickness is to try your best not to compare the countries. Each place is special in its own right and you take that away if you try to make any other place exactly like the States (or any place else for that matter.)
What is one piece of advice you would pass on to a student who is about to study abroad?
One piece of information that I would give to any student planning to study abroad is to take total advantage of your time there. Don’t waste your entire time there being sad and homesick but really open your mind to new people and new experiences. It may be hard at first and everyone does at some point get a little homesick, but don’t let it ruin your trip. Find an effective way to communicate with family and friends and set aside a time that’s available for you and for them, and that will help you to be more comfortable. I would advise people to travel with a debit card and not traveler’s cheques because if you need to be sent some money right away, anyone can just make a deposit and you have it. It is not always easy using a debit card in a store, but there are plenty of ATMs available for you to get the euros without a problem. The only thing is that you have to take out however much you may think you need or a little more because the ATM fees will add up! Additionally, I would say that if it is at all possible, try to visit other countries and cities outside of the place you are studying. It makes the experience that much more memorable.
How was the experience of studying the language in the classroom (in high school or in college) prior to studying abroad different from the experience of studying the language in and outside of the classroom once you were abroad?
The experience of learning Spanish in Spain cannot be compared with learning it in the States. While I was in Spain, I was surrounded by the language on a regular basis and that really helped me to apply it as opposed to studying it in class for an hour twice a week. My host parents did not speak any English. When my mother and godmother came to visit, I couldn’t even eat lunch because I was translating the whole time. But that is what makes the experience special. I really had to push myself because even going to the mall to buy lipstick could be a task if I didn’t remember certain words. But I learned a great deal that way and my Spanish really improved.