Make Amazing Friends on the other side of the World Past Review

By (University of Tulsa) - abroad from 05/17/2016 to 07/03/2016 with

ISA Study Abroad in Valencia, Spain

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so much from this trip, both in terms of my language development and appreciation for foreign cultures. I am so glad I decided to study abroad, and this experience will continue to shape my ideas and beliefs for many, many years to come.

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.

I learned a lot from my classes in Valencia, and I especially enjoyed my culture class. I will caution future Valencianos to take their studies seriously, especially if their grades will transfer. For one of my classes, the entire grade - and thus the entire grade that would be represented on my transcript - was simply the final exam. This created quite a bit of stress and some long study sessions, so be warned that this experience isn't a breeze academically.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration was amazing, very welcoming and knowledgable.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I had a great host family and I felt that I very much was able to get an authentic Spanish experience.

* Food:

The food was a struggle for me on this trip. My host mom made delicious meals, and I enjoyed the different meal options throughout Valencia, but the schedule of the program and the cultural eating habits of Valencia were a challenge. We often had programs on weekends or during the week that necessitated the packing of a "picnic" - their word for a sack lunch. Approximately a dozen times during the trip one of our provided meals would be a picnic, which always consisted of a bocadillo - a sandwich. Now the sandwiches were good, but 3 days in a row of eating the same food can ruin anything, and at times I was frustrated with the variety and quality of meals. Furthermore, I found that I had to spend more money on non-program provided food than was indicated in pre-departure discussions. The breakfast meal does not exist in Spanish culture, they drink coffee and if they eat anything, they have some toast. Thus, a third of the meals you pay for are bread and butter. Then one takes into account the altered eating schedule. Though Valencianos do not eat breakfast, they do eat a mid-morning light meal called almuerzo at around 11:00 am, a larger afternoon meal called comida at around 2:00-2:30 pm, an afternoon snack (merienda) from 5:00-6:00 pm, and a final large meal for dinner called cena at 9:00-10:00 pm. The meals your host family will provide (beyond breakfast) are the "lunch" and "dinner" meals at 2:00 pm and 9:30 pm. This creates the challenge of going with little food until 2:00 pm and then lasting from that meal until very late at night to eat dinner. I was not alone in finding that I had to purchase food to last in between provided meals - and this expense added up quickly. Again, the food quality was great, but expect to spend significant money on eating in between meals (or expect to be hungry).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

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

For a summer experience, I loved Valencia. Being exposed the numerous cultures within and around Spain was great, and although there are many differences between "Spain" Spanish and "Latin" Spanish, it was interesting to learn this perspective.


* 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)

Spain is a very expensive place. Even beyond the exchange rate between euros and dollars, the cost of living is much higher in Spain. Though there are options to reign in costs, I personally found that transportation costs (the fee for biking, bus/metro passes, and especially taxis), food, and other expenses (visiting the zoo, attractions in Madrid and Barcelona, etc.) added up quickly. Then one adds in the optional expenses of shopping and travel on free weekends. Even when I conscious tried to rein in spending (only biking, eating less, etc.) I found I still spent quite a bit more than I originally expected.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $200
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Share taxis whenever possible, with as many people as possible, or choose to bike or metro (though this may limit your activities, especially at night). Buy water from supermarkets, do not pay for water or other drinks at restaurants (you may be judged for carrying a water bottle, but you'll save 2-3 euro each time you eat out, and it adds up fast).


* 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

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? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Intermediate Spanish 2
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? Try and talk with your host family as much as possible. Practicing with someone who is a native speaker is difficult, but adjusting to the pace and accent will provide amazing results. Also attempt to talk with fellow american students in Spanish when possible.

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
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?
  • Making friends with other students in the program
  • Learning about Spanish culture and stepping outside the American bubble
  • Exploring new places and experiencing new things
* What could be improved?
  • provided meals (quantity more than quality)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I better understood the expense (though in the end it is still more than worth it) and I wish I had known the departure date earlier in advance, as the late notice led to an expensive plane ticket.