Madrid Experience Unique for Students

Study Abroad Students

Study Abroad students Katie Legidakes, Angel Bonilla and Faye Pacho

No Pasa Nada

Amelia Foubert

Amelia Foubert is an honors’ student at San Diego State University, who is working toward a degree in Spanish. Wanting to become more immersed in the Spanish culture and language, she decided to study abroad.

“I chose Spain because the Spanish is different there compared to the Spanish here. My grandfather’s first language is Spanish and my mom studied in Madrid when she was younger, so I decided to study in Madrid.” After deciding on the Spanish Immersion Study Abroad program, Foubert set off to Spain for an entire semester. As part of the immersion program, Foubert took Spanish classes and stayed with a host family. Initially, she wasn’t sure how much her Spanish would improve, however, after taking five classes in Spanish and living with a host family– who only spoke Spanish – her proficiency improved more than she hoped. “I was pretty good before I went at reading and writing, but my speaking was not as good and living in Spain helped my speaking so much. I got more confidence and more comfortable.”

She also ended up having a good experience with her host family. “I loved them. My host brother was the same age. My host mom was amazing; she is really sweet and they are like my family,” Foubert says.

She was also surprised and in awe about the cultural differences there. “They are laid-back and enjoy life. They have a siesta from 2:30-5:30pm, where everything is closed and people eat, clean, or travel from work to wherever they need to go,” she says. “Everyone takes public transit and it’s amazing, especially Madrid. “It was from these cultural differences that she gained her greatest take-away. In her view, “Spain has this phrase, ‘No pasa nada,’ which means do not worry about it. I feel like I learned from the Spaniards how to enjoy life more.”

Taking a Chance, Stepping Out of His Comfort Zone

Angel Bonilla

As a sociology student, Angel Bonilla wasn’t required to study abroad to complete his major; however, he wanted to experience education overseas, so he chose Spain and France as target countries. Ultimately, he chose Spain since he could speak some of the language and because his friend was also going.

Just like many students, Bonilla had many thoughts on what it meant to study abroad. Bonilla says, “I had many reservations. First, I thought about how expensive Spain was going to be and my ability to afford it. Secondly, I didn’t think I was going to be able to figure out how to get around and thought I was going to get lost constantly. What actually happened is that I had no problems with money and Spain’s metro system was very easy to navigate.”

One of the reasons to study abroad is to experience different cultures, languages, and sites. “I was overwhelmed; I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Spain. I went straight from the airport to Puerta de Sol. There were students from different countries, so there were a lot of people to get to know. I definitely became close to some of those fellow students,” says Bonilla. Bonilla also shares what he gained outside of the classroom that will be with him for the rest of his life. “One of the most valuable experiences I learned was to take chances and not be afraid of stepping out of your own comfort zone. It was a life-changing experience – I experienced new things while meeting new people from all around the world, which influences how I will now look at things.”

People in Spain are very passionate in what they do. It’s an absolutely beautiful country and the people you meet there only add to the experience. I definitely learned to speak and write the language better, how to think quickly, and how to deal with different situations,” Bonilla adds.

Another Way of Living

Faye Pacho

Faye Pacho just returned from her faculty-led, study abroad Spanish Immersion program. She decided to study in Spain after researching programs. “I am a social science single subject teaching credential major and this was an elective. Since it was my choice and not a requirement for my major, I wanted to make the right decision for me. I chose Spain because it was in Europe, and I wanted to become more fluent in Spanish,” she says.

When the program grew closer, Pacho felt anxious and a bit of fear since this would be the first time she traveled abroad alone. However, when she stepped off the plane her feelings changed. “Spain is beautiful. It was different, but it also felt somewhat similar to home. The freeways feel familiar; you hop on the freeway to wherever your destination is. My fears had no basis. Everyone and everything I experienced was great. It was the best experience. I could not have made a better choice,” she says.

Pacho also mentions that she had a roommate and created new friendships. “I built friendships and trust with other students since we all were in a foreign country. You tend to create relationships quicker. And, I met a lot of students, not just from SDSU. It also broke my apprehension about traveling on my own, and about meeting people from other countries. It was just a much more comfortable experience than I imagined.” One of the highlights that Pacho enjoyed was the daily siesta and opportunity to learn about the culture and the people, not just study in a classroom. She says, “We would go to class from8:30 am to about 1 pm. So all afternoon we could experience Madrid. We would also explore our surroundings after dinner.”

Pacho agrees that a language immersion program is one of the best ways to learn since, “you are taking classes and using the language every day, and everywhere you go.” And, her last bit of advice to potential study abroad students, “I think studying abroad really opens your eyes. It makes you aware of other perspectives of living,” she adds.

Immersion Leads to Better Skills

Katie Legidakes

Seeing that Katie Legidakes’ minor is Spanish, she thought Madrid would be a perfect place to improve her language skills. She enrolled in the month-long Spanish Immersion program to experience everything that Spain had to offer –its culture, sights, and language.

Legidakes learned a lot while abroad. For one, her Spanish definitely improved. “In the beginning I didn’t think it would get better because it was a lot different than the Spanish here, and I had forgotten about that. But, once you’re there and immersed in it completely and you have to make your way to use Spanish, you get so much better at it,” she says. Another experience that helped with her Spanish language skills was living with a host family, since they spoke only Spanish.

“I gained a new perspective. Studying abroad opened my eyes to see what other people are doing in the world – I met people from all over the world. And, I actually made good friends with other students, and since we all go to San Diego State, I can still see them here in San Diego. I also met others students from schools like New York, Florida, and Texas. I got a taste for what is out there, and it makes you appreciate things back home and think about other differences,” she says.

The ultimate goal is to take her Spanish skills to a professional level when Legidakes graduates the nursing program this December. “In California, it looks great to have Spanish on a résumé especially in a hospital setting. We get people in the hospital who can only speak Spanish,” she adds.

A Whole New World

Daniella Torres

Even though her major, criminal justice, doesn’t require her to study abroad, Daniella Torres was persuaded by a friend to accompany her on the Study Abroad Madrid, Spain program. “My friend asked me to go with her because her mother wouldn’t let her go overseas alone, so I said, ‘yes.’ Two months later we were packing for Spain.”

Before leaving, Torres was excited but also had bouts of fear – she had never traveled without her family, and the only other country she had visited was Mexico. “Crossing an entire ocean was a lot for me; however, all my fears were put to rest when I arrived in Spain. My first impression when I landed in Spain was ‘wow, this is truly a whole new world for me.’

“As a person that has a lot of big dreams and aspirations of traveling, I would have never thought of going to Spain to study. I’m so happy I did, because it’s such an amazing country with amazing people and culture,” she says. Many students often have the impression that since Mexico and Spain share the same language, they must be similar; however, as Torres found out, they are very different. “I was really surprised. It’s not like Mexico at all, it’s so different. I also learned a valuable lesson – when you travel to other countries you see how much more is out there. I definitely realized how little I knew of other countries, and this in turn only makes me want to know more.”

With Spain under her belt, Torres is ready to learn and experience more, but her focus in the coming years is to use her international knowledge to her advantage. “Job wise, there is a lot of competition out there and I definitely think having international experience helps. I also speak Spanish as a second language, so that is a plus. ‘I went to Spain to brush up on my language skills and to interact with different types of people.’ Not many people can say that,” she adds.

To find out more about the Study Abroad programs, go to neverstoplearning.net/studyabroad.