The Adventure of a Lifetime Past Review

By (Bilingual Elementary Education, Illinois State University) - abroad from 01/02/2013 to 05/24/2013 with

CEA: Granada, Spain

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about other cultures and broadened my horizons. My Spanish skills improved so much, and I grew a lot as a person while I was here. It was amazing, and definitely worthwhile. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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.

There wasn't a lot of homework in the majority of the classes that I took, which gave me a lot more time to travel and spend time exploring the streets of Granada and hanging out with my host family. In most of the classes, there were only two grades (the midterm and the final), which was a little stressful at times. I feel like I learned a lot in my classes, both about the topics at hand and the Spanish culture. My Spanish skills improved immensely, and I was able to understand my teachers without problems most of the time. The teachers were all very personable and friendly, and always willing to help or explain things if you needed extra help.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The on-site group at CEA is amazing! They are all super nice, and very fun to spend time with. They know the city very well, and are always willing to help with whatever you need, whether it is finding a place to go out to eat or scheduling an appointment. Everyone is able to converse in both English and Spanish, so communication is easy.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was wonderful. I lived with a mom, dad, 22 year old sister, and 16 year old sister. They were very friendly and caring, and so patient. The first couple of weeks, it was difficult to converse, but by the end, it was easy. Having siblings my age was great because it really helped me get a chance to practice my Spanish at home. Sometimes, I would go out with my sister and her friends, which was a lot of fun. I would help them with their English homework, and they would help me with the colloquial Spanish expressions that I had to learn. Our apartment was pretty nice, but about half an hour walk from the school. But the beautiful view of the Sierra Nevadas makes it a lot better.

* Food:

My host mom was an excellent cook, and I loved the Spanish cuisine - especially the paella. We did not have a ham leg in our house, which I was pretty happy about, but we definitely ate a decent amount of it. We had a lot of vegetables, soups, and fish. There was definitely a lot of oil in the food, and some days we ate a lot of fried food, but as a whole, I feel like we had a very healthy, balanced diet in my house.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I adjusted to some parts of the local culture better than others. I still have not gotten used to the lack of personal space and besos, but I have gotten accustomed to a lot of the other Spanish customs. I feel like I got to know the city very well, and that I learned a lot about the culture by spending time talking with my host sister and her friends. I also went to a church that had a Mass for the university students, and that really helped me to feel more involved in the culture and community. Everybody there was extremely friendly, and I wish I would have spent more time there earlier in the semester.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I luckily enough did not have to deal with the healthcare while I was here, but my roommate did multiple times. She told me that it was very simple, and quick to get in and out of. I know that our program was more than willing to help schedule appointments with the doctor for us and make recommendations as to where we should go.

* Safety:

As a whole, I felt very safe in Granada. During the day, I was comfortable walking anywhere in the city alone. At night, I tried to always make sure that I was walking with another person. It wasn't always possible, but I would just recommend being aware of your surroundings and speaking in Spanish to blend in more if you are worried.

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)

I had saved quite a bit of money for the trip, but tried not to go overboard or spend too much while here. Since all meals were included with the housing, I didn't have to spend too much on food. I would go out with friends to tapas bars and the like, but tried not to spend too much there. Traveling was definitely the most expensive part, but I generally ate at the hostel or ate a lot of bread and pasta.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? It would vary from week to week, but I would probably say around 5-7 euros.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Walk, don't take a bus or taxi everywhere. If you are planning on taking the bus, buy a bus card so it costs less per ride. Also, when traveling, find a supermarket and cook your food for most of the trip. We would usually eat out once or twice to experience the local cuisine, but that was it. Book your travel in advance so you can find cheaper deals. Don't go crazy shopping for lots of things that you don't need.


* 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

At school, all of my classes were in Spanish, so we had to use it in class. My host family doesn't speak any English, so I had to speak Spanish at home. When we spent time with the CEA staff, they would try to talk to us in Spanish, but were also willing to speak in English if we preferred. When I was amongst my American friends, we didn't speak enough Spanish, but some of us liked to speak mostly in Spanish to keep practicing and improving.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
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? SPA116
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? Hang out with people who speak Spanish as their first language. Intercambios are great, and if you have siblings your age, it is very easy to spend time doing fun things and talking together. Spend time watching Spanish TV with the family if you can, and read in Spanish. The more effort you make, the more you will improve.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • 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?
  • Learning about the culture
  • Staying with a host family
  • The city - Granada is wonderful
* What could be improved?
  • It may sound cliche, but I honestly can't think of anything...
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known more about Spain and its politics before coming here. My family talked about politics a lot, and it took me a while to feel like I had a grasp on the system.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!