Victoria Juarez in Spain
This past quarter, I had the pleasure of studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain – a historical city that sits about two and a half hours northwest of Madrid. My decision to study in Salamanca was based heavily on two factors: 1. I was fortunate to have lived in Salamanca previously when I was about 9 years old. My mom, a professor at a community college in Whittier, Ca., taught a study abroad program similar to the one that I went on and we moved there for a few months while she taught. 2. Besides being a History major I am also a Spanish major and the Salamanca program is an immersion program, meaning that not only were all of my classes taught in Spanish but I lived in a university residence hall with other Spanish students as well.
Taking 5 classes in a language other than my native tongue definitely proved to be a challenge. While I grew up learning Spanish from my grandparents in addition to taking both high school and college level Spanish, taking an entire course load in a different country in a different language was daunting. My professors were all very understanding that the 30 of us on the program were not completely fluent in the language and did their best to ensure that we learned the material at a sufficient pace. I took a variety of classes including Spanish language, Art History and Literature, Religion, and a Political Science/History course. All of my classes were very interesting and I enjoyed them thoroughly.
As I previously mentioned I had lived in Salamanca when I was a young girl but going back the second time as a student was much different. I was able to gain new perspectives and experience new things as a 20-year-old college junior that I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish had I decided not to go abroad or even go to Salamanca. Salamanca is a fairly small city, only 100,000 people and not a huge metropolis like Barcelona or Madrid but I truly believe that residing in a small university town gave me the opportunity to become familiar with Spanish culture and tradition. While I didn’t find myself enjoying some of these cultures or traditions, i.e. strange meal times, a cloud of cigarette smoke wherever I went, I did learn to love and embrace many factors of the Spanish lifestyle including the food and their famed siesta.
While it is impossible to sum up all of the experiences and challenges I faced in the past four months, I can say quite confidently that study abroad is one of the best decisions that I have ever made.