This year, the earlier portion of my summer was spent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, studying Puerto Rican Culture and the Spanish language at the University of Puerto Rico. After finishing my spring finals and a few flight delays, my invigorating trip began with a bang as my Spanish-only speaking mentor picked me up at the airport and asked me if I was hungry (I was). Academically challenging and culturally stimulating experiences like this one were a motif throughout the rest of my trip, where a language and people that I had never fully been immersed in before constantly surrounded me.
In class, I learned about the local language and culture and was able to apply my knowledge outside of the classroom; when my friends and I ordered arroz con habichuelas in Spanish at our favorite lunch spot, Vidy’s, or on our weekend excursions when we went to places we learned about like El Yunque Rainforest, Ponce, and the village mercado. Everyday moments like these are what made my three and a half weeks abroad so worthwhile, much like Gestalt’s psychological theory: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Study abroad may seem like a good opportunity to quickly immerse yourself in a foreign language, take interesting classes, make new friends, or experience a new culture. While all these things are very true, the best outcome of studying abroad is the personal growth you make being able to experience all of them at once. As I approach my senior year at UB, I feel better equipped to enter the post-graduate world because my study abroad experience taught me that speaking Spanish and working with bilingual communities is a actually career goal of mine. Therefore, studying abroad taught me some of the most valuable academic and life lessons, because it taught me about myself.
– Miranda Mangual