Looking back on college experience, I have few regrets. These regrets are all things I wish I would have experienced instead of things I regret doing. One of the opportunities I did not pursue was studying abroad. IU has so many study abroad opportunities! I really think every IU student should consider the programs offered. To give you a better insight into what life is like while studying in another country I interviewed my good friend, Greg Scheaffer.
The reason I decided to study abroad was pretty simple. I'm an Informatics and Spanish double major and have always loved learning about the Spanish language. One of my goals as a Spanish speaker is to near the fluency of a native speaker. To do this, I felt that study abroad was the only option to achieve this goal. I had heard great things from friends and colleagues who had the opportunity for the great experience.
I chose to study abroad in Sevilla, Spain which is in the lower portion of Spain located in the autonomous region of Andalucia.
Choosing where to study abroad can be a difficult decision. You have a variety of different variables to take into consideration. I can speak to the Spanish language in particular. There are 20 countries that have Spanish as their official language. Within those 20 countries, there will be a variety of different dialects and variation. Within Spain alone, there are probably at least 4 different dialects where each region doesn't speak Spanish, but instead Andaluz (Sevilla for example).
I decided on Spain because it was a country that I had always learned about when it came to the Spanish language. For me, Sevilla was one of the cities that caught my eye as a student. I originally thought of Barcelona; however, they don't speak just Spanish but also Catalan. For me, full immersion to the language was key.
Sevilla was an interesting city and full of history. It had a wide variety of things to see and experience. More importantly, it had an interesting dialect that I originally struggled with but in the long run helped my language skills more than any city (granted I'm pretty biased to my home city).
I split my time between the Universidad de Sevilla and CIEE which was the host program that partners with Indiana University. We had the opportunity to take class at both CIEE and the Universidad. The classes at CIEE were just with Americans in the program while at the Universidad we were thrown into the mix with other Americans and Spaniards. I took two classes at the Universidad and three classes at CIEE.
I took a variety of classes. I was able to take a few interesting and fun classes such as Cuisine in Spain. I also took a Don Quijote literature class, a required writing and grammar class that was the first few weeks to adjust to the language, another creative writing course, and finally a translation class.
Each of these classes were interesting in their own right. I never had an issue with finding a class that was interesting for me. I also had no issues with transferring the classes back to IU.
My host family was a little unorthodox compared to most people. My host was a man who was approximately around 35-40 years old and his dog. More often than not, his mother, or mi abuelita, would come over every day for either lunch or dinner to cook and eat with us.
While that may seem weird, it was definitely different but I don't have any regrets with staying there the entire semester. The program does a great job with trying to pair up the students based off a survey that you take. I was able to connect with my host as well as learn a lot from him. Some times students will switch mid semester for whatever reason, but for me I'm glad I didn't
A normal week would be no different than here at IU. I had classes Monday through Friday. My classes were block scheduled where I would have classes either in the morning or afternoon, but not really both.
I would always go back for lunch regardless of the situation. Lunch was the main and most important meal. Free time would consist of hanging out with my friends from the program as well as the city. We would have intercambios, or exchanges, where we would be paired with someone who would help us integrate ourselves to the culture. This would be just getting a cafe con leche (coffee) or grabbing a cervecita (a little beer) to seeing the city. It's really no different than my time here at IU other than the fact that I was outside more often.
I did a lot of exploring during my free time. I made a few trips to other cities within Spain and Europe. It wasn't every weekend that I was out and about. I tried to limit it to one trip a month outside of Spain and then once a month a trip within Spain. As a result, I probably traveled 25% of the weekends outside of Spain.
That's a tough one. I have so many memories of the trip and each one has it's own claim to be the favorite. Whenever asked, I have to clarify the question and break it down based off of trips (week long trips, day trips, weekend trips), friend memories, Sevilla memories, and other. However, I'll say this. The one I'm sharing may not be my "favorite-favorite" but it's definitely one that I'll never forget and was extremely interesting.
I left for France on Wednesday immediately after my exam and got there smoothly. It was Halloween and where I stayed the first night, everyone was dressing up getting ready to go out. However, since I had a train to catch the next day at 7am in a country where I don´t know the language, I opted for a good nights sleep.
So, the next day I head out to Bayeux, France which is in the region of Normandy. Before I booked the trip, I assumed that the Normandy D-Day beaches were in the city of Normandy, but that´s incorrect. The closest city to the beaches is Bayeux, which is in the Normandy region. Therefore, I decided to go to Bayeux to get to the beaches. The train ride was interesting. After a confusing 20 minutes of getting to the train station that included a mix of Spanish, English, French, and mad hand gestures, I finally arrived but couldn´t find my train. Turns out that the Bayeux wasn´t the last stop. So, a huge announcement in French goes off about 10 minutes before our departure and our track number hadn´t been announced yet. A random guy comes up to me and asks, "Do you speak English?" Obviously my first reaction was to make sure my hands were in my pocket so I didn´t get pick-pocketed But, he was also going to Bayeux and was wondering what was going on. I responded that I didn´t know but he started freaking out saying something was wrong. Who knows what the announcement was, but the train shows up and we´re off. The landscape was beautiful and a great ride.
Two hours later, I arrive. I get off the platform and head to the bus stop that the internet told me to go to but the next bus doesn´t leave for another 2 hours. I walk in circles trying to figure out what to do. I head to the huge billboard saying, "English speaking tours to D-Day beaches start here". I walk over there thinking they´d be able to help me but no one speaks English or Spanish (and Spanish is completely different than French, so no help there Romance languages...) and so my circling continues. I find some people that speak English, but they´re not going to the beaches, "But, hey there´s a rainbow, so you have hope" was his response as well. I continue my circling again and head to the front of the building where the sign pointed hoping that they speak English in the hotel. Once again, a conversation in Spanish, English, hand gestures, and French ensue. He brings out the lady "that speaks English" who turns out to be the same lady who doesn´t. I´m told taxi is the only way. I find a taxi and he tells me its 50€ one direction, which was about how much I had total for the day. So, I had 8 hours to kill in this city. I walked around the "important" parts within 20 minutes and started to worry what I´d do but it was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip and for my time in Spain. I stumbled on a mass in the Cathedral because it was All Saints Day which was cool to see. Then, I wandered around the city and found so much cool stuff. Turns out this city was the first city liberated in WWII and the British did it. The city was built on a river then the citizens diverted the river into canals which made it a important city. There were a lot of plaques commemorating this. But at one point, all the bells in the city went off and it just made me think about how it would´ve sounded when the city was liberating. It was an incredible experience.
But, long story short, I wandered around this city for 8 hours constantly stumbling on cool and interesting things. It was interesting cause no one spoke English or Spanish and I don´t speak French. It made it an experience for sure because I tried speaking Spanish because it´s a romance language and in the same family as French, but the pronunciation is different.
Go with the flow.
Some of my favorite memories came from last minute trips to spur of the moment nights out on the town. Plans change, but spontaneousness and the ability to just go with it make the moment worth it
Give your family, host, city, situation a chance
Moving to a new country can be difficult and definitely a challenge, but things will work out. Find your support group there and you'll have a great time
Traveling is fun, but consider staying in your host city
Traveling and seeing all of Europe is definitely fun. I got to see a host of cities and traveled to 5 different countries (Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and Italy), but one thing I do regret a bit was the fact that I didn't stay in Sevilla as I wanted. I feel like I missed out on a lot.
Don't say no
Similar to go with the flow, I wasn't an expert of Spain or Sevilla before I went nor am I now. Try everything. There is so much to be discovered.
Trust the locals (to an extent)
They live there. They know what's what. Where to go late night, what bars to go to, where the best place to eat is, what's the most fun. Making friends with the locals will make the experience a lot better
Reach out the IU Office of Overseas Studies. The advisors there are amazing.
Figure out what you want out of your experience and then do your research.