Why did you decide to study abroad with ISA in Salamanca, Spain?
Will: I was at a friend's house talking about our upcoming college classes and our mutual distaste in be required to take a foreign language. I was looking through the course catalog online when I stumbled onto a link to study abroad. Ohio State has a program where you can go to Mexico for a quarter and count it as 3/4s of the language requirement...you only had to take the first class. I suggested this to my friend as a quick way to get out of the class as well as get to travel. She liked the idea, but suggested that we go to Spain instead...if you're going to travel, why not travel somewhere far away, right?
So, I started looking at options for studying abroad in Spain. During that time, I also took two Spanish classes and was surprised to find that I really enjoyed learning another language. My friend and I had a good year to plan, so we looked at different options. After the end of the first quarter, she decided that she didn't want to study abroad...but I was set on the idea. Ohio State didn't have any programs that went to Spain, but it looked like there was a loose partnership with ISA...so I signed up.
(Unrelated, I later found out that I would not be getting credits for the classes I was taking and ended up having to take the remaining Spanish classes when I returned, thus delaying my graduation. This was an issue with Ohio State, not with ISA).
What made studying abroad a unique and special experience?
Will: My family is not known as being adventurous. My father's first plane ride and first glimpse of the ocean didn't happen until after he was 50; everyone tends to be happier close to home. I've always been different in that I like seeing the world. In fact, trying explain why I wanted to go to Spain was nearly impossible - my parents just didn't get it.
For me, this trip was big. I had never been anywhere by myself for that length of time before. After my friend backed out, I was going to Salamanca without knowing anyone. I later found out that there were people from my college on this trip, but not people I had ever met before. Not only would I be studying Spanish at one of the oldest universities in Europe, I would be living in a completely different culture. It was both exciting and scary.
The program was special because it forced me out of my comfort zone and made me grow. I ended up testing into a higher level that I would have though....and thus had to work hard to keep up. I remember being extremely frustrated because of the initial demands of class, but rising to the challenge made me not only a stronger Spanish speaker, but a stronger person in general.
Doing this program gave me a strong confidence and also served as a home base for other travels through the summer. While ISA had several weekend excursions for us, there was also time to do some exploring on my own. I was able to do a trip to Morocco, Portugal, and even ran with the bulls in Pamplona. After the program ended, I took advantage of my location to backpack Europe...something I doubt I would have ever been able to do on my own.
I made friends in Salamanca from all over the world. I mostly ran around with a girl from Greece and one from France, and I made rather good friends with a guy from Korea. With that, I made friends with people over the U.S....some of who I still talk to once in a while today.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Will: Currently, I work for a company called Rustic Pathways. We do community service, language, and adventure programs for high school students (similar to study abroad in some aspects) - I work in Costa Rica for about half of the year organizing and running these programs. Had it not been for my travel experiences in Europe and my familiarity with Spanish (even thought Costa Rica pretty much speaks a different kind of Spanish), I would have never gotten this position. Now, I get to not only encourage students to see the world, but I get to continue seeing the world myself.