Leah and a friend hangout at a fountain square.
Overseas Study Program
Leah’s majors: Political Science and Spanish
Year abroad: Spring 2010
Reason you chose this program: It is one of the most challenging Spanish-speaking programs, and I wanted to be in Europe for the great travel opportunities.
Favorite classes: Literature of the Spanish Golden Age: Theatre
Housing situation: Spanish homestay for the first month, then an apartment with one Spanish and one American roommate in the city.
Best memory: My best memory is when my roommates and I cooked a special dinner together, ate it on our 4th story terrace overlooking the city, and then went out with a bunch of their Spanish friends afterward. I felt so much a part of Spanish culture and it was a great bonding experience with my roommates.
Greatest challenge: The greatest challenge was navigating a new city and culture.
What I wish I knew before I left: I wish I had done more research about Madrid and the myriad opportunities it has to offer. I also wish I had known more about the surrounding areas of Madrid for day trips and other such excursions.
Culture shock vs. reverse culture shock: Upon first arriving in Madrid, it was difficult to understand a new cultural and social system, as well as to acclimate to new, not as heavily structured classes taught entirely in Spanish with Spanish professors.
Complete this sentence: If I could do it over, I would spend a lot more time exploring Madrid’s various cultural districts. There is so much to offer in such a large city, and I didn’t even begin to get a taste for everything that I wanted to see and experience.
What I know now that I didn’t know before: I learned a lot about my personal limitations and to what extent I want to live/work abroad in the future.
Fact about Spain that you think people would be surprised to learn: Although the people of many Western European countries are at least proficient, if not fluent, in English, Spain is to some extent an exception. Many Spaniards do not speak English, and if they do, it is often very basic. Therefore, a good working knowledge of Spanish before studying in Spain is very helpful, if not absolutely necessary.