How a Town so Small Made the World so Big Past Review

By (ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE/LETTERS., Austin College) - abroad from 01/14/2013 to 04/28/2013 with

Arcadia: Toledo - Fundación Ortega-Marañón

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I had never been out of the country before this experience. I'd never even been out of state without my parents. I attend college an hour and a half from home. I gained so much confidence in my ability to exist independently, separated from everyone and everything that I know. When I first got there, I could not speak to the people I lived with and I soon discovered that I was the only one at my school who wasn't there with someone else from their home university. Faced with isolation, homesickness, fear, constant confusion and uncertainty, I discovered something wonderful: I was capable of overcoming it all. In January, I cried every night. Come April, I cried for days as my return flight approached. Separated from everything familiar, I was able to discover who I really am, when every outside influence I'd ever known was stripped away. Nothing in my life has been so influential and meaningful as my semester abroad.

Review Photos

Arcadia: Toledo - Fundacion Ortega y Gasset in Toledo Photo Arcadia: Toledo - Fundacion Ortega y Gasset in Toledo Photo Arcadia: Toledo - Fundacion Ortega y Gasset in Toledo Photo Arcadia: Toledo - Fundacion Ortega y Gasset in Toledo Photo Arcadia: Toledo - Fundacion Ortega y Gasset in Toledo Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

It varied significantly per instructor.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I ran into some trouble with my first host family, but the moment I approached the administration with my concerns, the problem was taken care of with incredible speed and efficiency. I was placed with another family and I could not ask for more. I am glad for the troubles I faced, I learned a lot in those three months. And my final month in Toledo was made completely unforgettable by my wonderful second host family.

* Food:

The food was wonderful, and I definitely grew to love it. However, as a huge fan of spicy food, I was missing that aspect at the dinner table. I learned to love the more subtle flavors that food can have to offer, though.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I was incredibly lucky and had a 20 year old host sister in both my first and second host family situations. When staying with the second family, my host sister and I were always together. Soon enough, her friends became my friends. We always went out together and spent all of our time at home together. I believe that to have been the absolute best thing for language submersion as I was practicing speaking casually and conversationally almost constantly.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The issue never arose for me personally, but a few of my friends said that the school doctor was extremely unavailable and when you did get in to see him, he was very rude. However, I do not know this as fact.

* Safety:

I travelled alone for the entire 20-minute walk to my house in the middle of the night quite a few times without ever encountering a single problem. It is a very safe city. It's never really a good idea to do what I did, but luckily Toledo is very safe because it is a small town and people tend to look out for each other there.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Euros are very tricky. In the U.S., I'm used to the most money I can spend with a single coin being 25 cents. So when I was in Spain, I wouldn't really think much of spending a 2 euro coin. However, with the conversion rate, that's working towards 3 dollars. It's easy to get lulled into spending a lot more than you think you are. Travel on the weekends also gets very pricy. I could have saved a lot of money by staying in Toledo every weekend, but it's important to try and see some things while the opportunity is so readily available.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? It varied greatly depending on whether or not I was travelling that weekend.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Keep your money conversions in mind constantly when buying anything! Even the little things will add up after a while.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Speaking English was strictly prohibited on school grounds.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I had taken one 300 level poetry course the semester before studying abroad.
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? I cannot emphasize enough the benefit of living with a host family. It is extremely difficult and scary and uncomfortable for the first few weeks, but it genuinely forces you to practice. Especially with programs such as mine that only accepts families that don't have any English-speakers. Making local friends is also very important because it's easier to practice when you're having fun instead of feeling like you're giving a presentation or taking an oral exam.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Excursions with the school
  • Beautiful wonderful amazing location
  • Everyone on staff was so incredibly nice
* What could be improved?
  • Wifi connection on campus
  • I can't think of anything else
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how open, friendly, and welcoming the locals were. Eventually, I grew confident enough to find out and my life there truly began. I feel as though I wasted so much precious time just worrying too much to really dive in. I was afraid of saying something stupid or not being able to say anything at all. When really, the worst that could happen is I would get corrected and maybe someone would chuckle a little bit. I wish I had known that being nervous was really just holding me back from the amazing experience I eventually was able to have.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Arte cristiano, musulmán y judío: Toledo

Course Department: Art History
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: It was my most challenging course last semester, without a doubt. There is a lot of new vocabulary, as the course is centered around architecture. I came home wanting to talk about little things I recognized and remembered from the course but discovered that I don't know what any of it is called in English. There are very few grades. Two exams, one paper, and one presentation. Everything counts very much, and he is not an easy grader. However, it is all worth it. There is no use for textbooks in this course. It meets twice a week, two sessions per meeting. The first session is held walking the streets of Toledo and learning about history as we walk on the floors of it, run our fingers across the walls of it, history becomes reality and makes learning far more accessible.
Credit Transfer Issues: As with all courses, this only came back as .75 credits. However, that is more to do with my school than the study abroad program.