Name: Julia Haas, Class of 2022
Program: CIEE Language & Culture: Alicante, Spain, Fall 2019
Fields of Study: International Relations
How did studying abroad affect your academic and/or professional career?
I found that while studying abroad, one of the greatest things I gained was fluency in Spanish. I know that this will be an invaluable skill both in my professional life and in my social interactions no matter where I travel or who I meet throughout my life. Beyond that, I also learned how to be independent and developed life skills that can only come from living in a foreign environment, like how to plan trips, set up an international phone plan, exchange money, and navigate public transportation.
How did you explore your hobbies, interests, and passions abroad?
I am very passionate about photography, and throughout my study abroad experience and my travels to other countries I was able to take some incredible pictures of places that I had never seen before. I also have a blog about current events and being abroad and being exposed to different national news and politics provided me with very interesting perspectives to write about!
Why would you recommend your respective abroad program or location?
Alicante was an incredible city to study abroad in because it was not too touristy so I could really concentrate on my language skills. In addition, it was right on the beach which was so much fun and also a great way to bond with the other students on my program and in the city. Alicante is small enough that within a few weeks it was easy to know my way around the city. There are also so many other students from all around the world studying at the University of Alicante and it was so interesting and fun to get to know them.
What should students consider when applying and preparing for their time abroad?
I would absolutely tell students to prepare for your living experience to be different than you expect. If you are in a homestay, it is much more challenging to get together with friends and you may be far away from other students or may need to take public transportation to get around or even go to school. It definitely takes more effort to hang out with friends and I found that can be frustrating and lead to homesickness. Just remember to get out there and do things, and make the effort and it is worth it!
Share a story about a time you experienced cultural immersion.
Almost every day at mealtimes with my homestay family I experienced cultural immersion. My host family only spoke Spanish, so that meant that I had to also speak fully in Spanish as well. The whole experience made me feel like a real member of the family. We'd joke about their favorite show on tv "First Dates" and we'd talk about our days while eating my host mom's delicious home-cooked food. These times I spent with my host family made me feel so welcomed and that I was not just visiting, but a real part of their lives and the culture.