A Semester in España
How staying with a host family with no internet made my confidence soar
It has been 2 years since my study abroad adventures and I can’t believe that I have waited this long to share my stories. I spent the Spring semester of my Junior year studying in the town of Salamanca. It is this beautiful, little town in the autonomous region of Castile and León. When I first applied to study abroad I was just a shy 21 year old who loved Spanish. After being advised by numerous people to live with a host family, I had my inhibitions and applied to live in a dorm. My primary emotion before leaving was fear; I was afraid that I wouldn’t do well and afraid of being away from my family and friends. However, when I arrived I stopped being afraid and let all my worry go.
After 4 days of staying in the dorm I asked an advisor with the program I went with about staying with a host family. It was the best decision I made. My host parents, Luisa and Paco were fabulous and I could not have asked for better. If I didn’t stay with a host family my confidence would not be where it is today nor would my Spanish language skills.
I studied abroad with a fairly unknown organization, Travel & Education, and there were only 5 students in our group. I knew none of them before we landed in Madrid, but after a week they became my home base. I found comfort in going out with them to explore the town and take in the beauty around us. On the other hand, I treasured my time alone which was quite often. Out of the T&E group I lived farthest from the Plaza Mayor and the school and I lived with no other student. The other two girls of the group lived together in the same house and the boys did too. Therefore, I spent a lot of time by myself. I was also the only one whose host family did not have internet. Anytime I wanted to Skype with my family or friends I had to go to school or the library to use Wi-fi. This may sound awful, but I am glad it was this way. I was never able to just sit at home and surf the internet I was forced to leave the house and find a spot with an internet connection. I discovered that besides the library and school there were tons of internet cafes and even patches of grass near el colegio that had internet access.
The challenges I faced from living in a dorm to moving in with a host family, to not having internet, and not having any other study abroad student in my house have made me the person I am today. Before I left I was shy and I never began a conversation and I did not believe in my ability to communicate in a foreign language. Now I have the confidence to go up to people and compliment them on their shirt or their bag. I am not afraid to speak Spanish to an old professor or in front of a class. I am secure enough in myself to switch my career choice from teaching to advising students to study abroad and to try new things. I am not afraid of failure and making tough decisions. Therefore, I believe everyone should study abroad in order to find themselves and in order to stop being afraid and relying on comforts like the internet or other people. You will always have and need yourself and it is necessary to love and trust who you are. I will continue to share my adventures of the best 4 months of my life in the following weeks.
Below you will see 3 photos from my journey – the first is of me posing with Miguel de Cervantes during a trip to Toledo, the second is of the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca at night, and the third is a picture of the New and Old Cathedrals in Salamanca from across the Tormes River.