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Koret Fellowship Program

Jason Nguyen
Jason Nguyen

Biology, Spanish, and Public Health major, Class of 2018

Thanks to the financial support from the Koret Fellowship, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Seville, Spain, through CIEE’s Summer Language & Culture program. I had studied abroad before in El Salvador, but one of the things this program allowed me to do that I was not able to do in El Salvador was do a local homestay to fully immerse in the language and culture. I stayed with a host mom and her two sons, and since they only spoke Spanish, it forced me to let go of English as a crutch.

I also took a class called “Three Cultures in Spain: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” which was taught entirely in Spanish. We spent the first part of each class discussing the assigned readings and the second part visiting various sites of historical significance throughout Seville. When I was not at home or in class, I was able to freely travel around in Seville and interact with the locals. I was also able to travel around Spain as well as Portugal and Morocco during the weekends. I felt lucky to have been able to attend the World Pride Parade, which was coincidentally hosted by Madrid while I was in Spain. Even though I originally wanted to stay in Spain because my main purpose of going was to improve my Spanish, I ended up joining other groups in my program on trips to Portugal and Morocco because it was rough traveling alone in Madrid. I was surprised that I was still able to practice my Spanish in Morocco since most of the locals all spoke Arabic, Spanish, and English. I had nothing against experiencing another different culture. Overall, my Spanish improved greatly through these experiences, as my host mom liked to point out to me.

However, one of the major challenges I experienced while in Seville was that most of the people in my program seemed to treat study abroad as a vacation. That made me really sad because I really enjoyed bonding with the students in my program while I was in El Salvador. I associated myself with the few who actually cared about the culture and practicing our Spanish. Another challenge for me was how hot it was in Seville. It was so hot for most of the day that I found myself napping often because I felt drained of energy. I think I probably would have been able to do more and fully advantage of being in Seville had I not gone during the summer, but I would say that my experience still felt accomplished.

I think studying abroad again after having taken a lot more Spanish classes at Santa Clara University made me realize that my Spanish skills had already improved significantly since I had already studied abroad in El Salvador. I do not necessarily have to live in a Spanish-speaking country to maintain and improve my proficiency in Spanish. This experience has made me a lot more confident in my Spanish communication skills, and I can definitely see myself using these skills to connect with and help more people as an aspiring doctor.