The student’s guide to studying abroad


Photo via Travelzoo

Over the summer, I spent a month studying abroad in Spain to experience a new culture and strengthen my Spanish-speaking skills. I was with a program called CIEE, who granted me a scholarship and made this entire experience possible. I stayed in a town called Palma on the island of Mallorca, which is a ways off the coast of Barcelona.

Read on for a specific guide to getting the most out of your future study trips abroad.

Stay with a Host Family

I got to stay with a host family, which was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip if I’m being honest. That aspect of it allowed my proficiency in Spanish and my first-hand understanding of the culture to grow in ways that I never even thought imaginable.

By spending so much time with my host family and my program peers, it’s not surprising that I ended up creating so many bonds in a matter of only four weeks. My host family started to feel like a real family to me, and it was crazy to have to say goodbye to people that I lived with for an entire month. They helped me with my Spanish speaking skills so much it was kind of unbelievable. I got more comfortable with speaking and using my Spanish in general than I ever have before.

Experience the Culture

Along with my language growth, I would say my favorite part of the program was probably getting to experience so much of the culture, for example, attending the local festivals, markets, and meeting the locals and getting a stronger understanding of what it means to use Spanish in a real, raw setting.

We got to visit so many cultural and historical buildings, like the cathedral and a castle, I had never seen architecture that beautiful in my life, combined with my newfound knowledge of Spanish history, it really was the experience of a lifetime.

Set Expectations Before You Leave 

I realized once I got to Palma, along with many of my peers, that the way the program described itself and the way we would be spending the month wasn’t all that accurate if I’m being honest. I’m not even necessarily saying that it was worse than initially implied, just that I realized how blind a lot of us were when we were walking into this.

We never knew what activities we would be doing, what the structure of our days would be looking like, or even what the classes would be like. Instead of giving us this information before the trip, we got lots of information on culture shock and blending in with the locals. 

When in Doubt, GO! You Won’t Regret It. 

Overall, the benefits definitely outweigh the negative aspects of my experience, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have gotten the opportunity to study abroad. It really is something that I will treasure forever.

If you are looking for an eye-opening and perspective-changing experience, I definitely recommend studying abroad. You will grow in ways that you never even thought possible, I assure you. Even if you think it is unattainable and unrealistic, as I thought as well, look into it. There are scholarships available and more people may want to help you than you thought.