Anna Lee Sadocha has recently returned from Salamanca, Spain, where she spent spring semester 2019 studying Spanish at the University of Salamanca through SUNY Cortland. She describes her experiences below. Be sure to look at her slide show, too--use full screen for best viewing!
After much preparation, and years of anticipation I have completed my study abroad experience in Salamanca, Spain. This feels strange to say, as this has been a dream of mine since middle school after completing my first Spanish language course. I set the goal then, and now I am left to ponder- what’s next?
While my main goal abroad was to strengthen my Spanish speaking skills, my experience was complemented by so much more that helped me to grow not only my Spanish, but as an individual as well. To start, within my first week I was able to volunteer my time as an English Teaching Assistant for local Spaniards who wanted to improve their English skills. After exhausting my brain in the beginning weeks thinking, and speaking in another language, this was the perfect opportunity to surround myself with the local people in Salamanca, and offer my time teaching my own native tongue. Through keeping a busy schedule and immersing myself with locals I was able to make Salamanca feel like home right from the start.
It is easy for me to say that my host mother was the highlight of my experience in Spain. While she provided me with a room to stay and home-cooked meals (that tasted amazing), she also supplied me with much more than what was dictated on her responsibilities of being a ‘Host Mom.’ However, it is important to remember that relationships take time. Without both of our effort to spend time together, share stories, and introduce our families to one another, our relationship could not have grown very far. Although I loved travelling on the weekends, I also made sure that some weekends I stayed home; it was in these weekends where we truly connected and spent an abundance of time together. Through our combined efforts my Spanish truly improved more than I could have ever imagined!
There is no doubt that study abroad brings an abundance of surprises, spontaneity, and mistakes. At times, you might find yourself packing for a quick weekend trip that you planned hours before. Or you might find yourself running to catch the last train home. As a very structured individual this lifestyle introduced me to a new mindset- it is possible to be organized and structured; and still, experience life with avoidable and unavoidable mistakes. More often than not these will be your funniest memories to think back on, and best stories to tell. Even my coursework came with unexpected discovery. I was able to uncover why some of my ancestors emigrated from Spain to the Dominican Republic. After learning much about the Spanish Civil War in my history course it all became very clear as to why it was necessary that my family had fled Spain decades ago. As a result of being introduced to this topic, I am now intrigued to study the Spanish Civil War more in depth in the future.
With my time in Spain, it became very clear that I am studying exactly what interests me and that I am content with my double major in both Spanish and International Politics. I truly enjoy looking at different cultures and comparing them to the big melting pot that we experience here in America. Additionally, I feel more prepared and confident to take on future endeavors. As a result of speaking with individuals in a language different than my own, there is no doubt that I speak more confidently in Spanish but in English as well. My public speaking has strengthened greatly, and I can empathize with others on a level I have not before. I am now aware of the daily struggles to fit into another culture, and the assimilation process that comes with being a “foreigner.”