Why did you decide to study abroad?
I have three older sisters who all studied in Rome through various Universities over the past several years. I've been lucky enough to go to Europe a few times with my family since I was ten-years-old, and have had a connection with European culture since. My grandparents are born and raised Italian citizens, so my sisters and I were put in Italian classes from kindergarten-fifth grade. I loved learning a language and although Saint Anselm College doesn't provide Italian as a language course, I was just as excited to further my knowledge of Spanish. I decided to minor in Spanish my sophomore year because I loved the language and wanted to have a better understanding of it. Since my freshman year I decided to watch my GPA and make sure that I was eligible to go abroad. My parents were a big influence in my decision to go abroad initially but by my junior year, it was my decision entirely. I needed to broaden my horizons and see the world past New England not just as a vacation, but also as a second home.
If you could tell someone one reason why they should go, what would you say?
You will meet people and make friends that you would NEVER (literally never) have the opportunity to meet in another situation. I had nineteen other roommates, which made up a HUGE portion of the friends I made while in Spain. I still talk to all of my friends at least once a day and I feel so lucky to have met all of them, regardless of my initial homesickness.
What did you accomplish while you were abroad?
I learned about an entirely different culture in southern Spain and pushed myself to speak Spanish and listen and comprehend the language as best I could. I learned that I'm not as shy as I think I am, and do very well in uncomfortable situations. Mostly, while abroad, as cliché as it sounds, you learn so much about yourself that its an irreplaceable experience.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to face while studying abroad?
Unfortunately, I was having some family issues back home that I had found out about on my spring break trip to Eastern Europe. I was upset, and sad especially because I couldn't be home with my family. Something that involves your family while you cannot be with them is going to be one of the biggest obstacles to get over and causes serious homesickness. I realized that I was with eight other people who were at this my point my VERY good friends. Without having to say a word, they knew something was wrong and wanted to hear about it. It was comforting knowing I had others to talk to about it so I didn't have everything pent up inside. There was nothing I could do because I couldn't and didn't want to return to the states. It was just a matter of wishing I was home in that point in time.
What was the most memorable experience you had while studying abroad?
In Sevilla in April, there is a huge festival called "Feria de Abril". All southern cities participate in some form of Feria but Sevilla's celebration is the biggest and most elegant of them all. All the men and women dress as nicely as they can in Flamenco dresses and suits and dress and drink and socialize 24/7 for an entire week. A lot of people on my program/at my school went away for this week but me and my closes friends stayed to experience what my house mom said was "what Sevilla was all about". It was by far my best week of four months, the weather was beautiful, everyone LOOKED beautiful and my friends and I enjoyed literally every minute of it. I think about that week all of the time and I'm so thankful I decided to stay in Sevilla and experience it.
How did you decide to go where you did?
I always knew I wanted to go somewhere in Spain. Because a large portion of my family is from Italy, a lot of people expected me to go to Rome like my sisters. I had already seen Rome, and I'd already seen most of the Italian culture (even just with my grandparents and extended family). Spanish was a new language that I loved and I had never been to Spain. Originally, I knew Madrid would be too large and city-like for me. I wanted something more intimate and Spanish. Barcelona was definitely a city I was interested in - but I also had to take all of my courses into account and see what their schools had to offer me. After meeting with Sarah, she suggested Sevilla because it was around Boston's size. Immediately, I was interested. I was born and raised six miles outside of Boston, so the size of this city didn't overwhelm me. I knew Sevilla was in the southern part of Spain but I really wasn't sure why. I knew nothing about the city except that it was Boston's size, and it in the south. I couldn't believe that I went abroad not knowing a thing about the city, but to my surprise I liked it better that way. I was so happy and surprised the second our bus from Madrid pulled into the city. My program took me all over Spain from north to south to east. I'm sure a lot of people will say this no matter what, but if I had to do the entire process all over again knowing what I know and seeing all of these other cities, I would choose Sevilla. It was a city with a small-town feel and intimacy.
What was your first week like abroad?
I remember that my first week abroad, we had orientation in Madrid and Toledo. I was entirely overwhelmed and nervous because I truly did not know a single other person on my trip. I couldn't believe I'd signed up to be away from home for over four months with people I didn't know. I was nervous, homesick, and honestly a little regretful that I went abroad at all. I can't say I wish I could go back to that first week and act differently and less homesick because it helped me realize that that is all part of the process. I'm from Massachusetts and go to school only an hour away. Home has always been a hop, skip, and a jump for me. For once in my life, I didn't have my family, I didn't have my security blanket, and I didn't have home. That's definitely nerve-racking for anyone! This homesickness helped me to realize that it can't all be easy. There have to be some obstacles about the entire experience. After four days I had made great friends (who were my core group of friends until the very end surprisingly), and I was so anxious to be heading to Sevilla to start a great and unforgettable chapter of my life.