Where in Spain are you living, and what is your living situation like?
I am living in Valencia, Spain, with a host family in an apartment! I live with my host parents, Juan and Inma (both 60), and their son Carlos (21).
What university are you studying at?
I am studying at the University of Virginia in Valencia. The university has students from all over the U.S., but we are all American students that have a minimum requirement of credits in Spanish. We are all studying different things, but all our classes are in Spanish and are taught by local Spanish professors.
You are majoring in Spanish, how is that going so far? What do you wish to do with your major in the future?
I love Spanish and I can't wait to teach it! I want to teach English in Spain or Latin America for a couple of years after college, and then I want to come back to America to teach Spanish in high school and hopefully get into coaching basketball too!
How do you think studying abroad benefits you in your academic and future career?
This semester is critical for me for a couple of reasons. I want to become fluent in Spanish. I believe that the best Spanish teachers are fluent in the language, and the best way to learn a language is by observing and interacting with a native speaker. There is only so much language you can get from learning grammar in a book. At the end of the day, you need to use language in a communicative context to learn it. I am also volunteering two hours a week at a local high school where I am getting experience teaching English as a second language to 13-year-olds. I see this as an opportunity for me to try new things and help me get ready for when I am working in a Spanish speaking country teaching English full time.
What is the university like compared to MSU?
The university here is a family. I go to class with the same people who I see every day, who I go on trips with, who I do everyday life with. We were all our first friends here in Valencia. We also all share a primary language so it is easy and refreshing to be around each other. I want to make local Spanish friends, but it's a little harder because of the language barrier and the culture differences. But, there is an program which connects English speaking kids with Spanish speaking kids so that both can practice their secondary language!
What has been the most surprising experience/change so far?
The most surprising experience has been the awesome community here. I didn't expect to make so many American friends so fast.
How is the culture in Spain different from America?
The people here are very short with each other. We tend to be more polite and beat around the bush about things in America. Spaniards express how they feel and what they want frankly. It seems rude at first, but I have come to like it. It's said that you get more done when you are more direct.
Where have you traveled to so far?
I went to Xativa the first weekend (Jan. 12), Rome the next weekend, Toledo the next and Madrid last weekend!
What has been your favorite experience so far?
My favorite experience thus far has been going to a local church where the services are all in Spanish. The worship is like a concert. The music and the lights and smoke are more hype than most of the clubs I have been to. But the coolest part is that God and the faith that the local people have is the same as it is in America.
What experience are you looking forward to most?
I am looking forward to getting involved in an international student ministry called "en vivo." Multiple locals have told me that it is a good group to go to when making Spanish speaking friends. I am excited to invite my American friends to come with me too.
How has the Evans Scholarship helped to make your dreams/goals become a reality?
Without the scholarship, I would not have been able to afford to go on this study abroad trip. I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and I will not waste a single day here!