An Unforgettable Immersion Experience August 04, 2019

By (University of Connecticut) - abroad from 01/14/2019 to 05/17/2019 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Madrid

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My views on culture are completely different now. I understand the nature of cultural difference so much better now and have acquired a significant base of knowledge about Spanish culture, specifically. My language skills improved drastically. My eyes were opened to a number of possible career goals that I'm now considering, that I didn't know existed before my study abroad, such as translation and interpretation. This experience was well worth it, and I am extremely grateful for every part of it.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Participating in this program was the most fulfilling and enriching educational experience I've ever had. My courses were challenging, thought-provoking, and complementary to my cultural learning.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration of this program never missed a beat. I felt supported at every step of the way and found that any issues I had were solved quickly and effectively.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was an extremely helpful resource for me in adjusting and learning about what everyday life is like in Spain.

* Food:

I had never experienced Spanish cuisine before my study abroad. I was surprised at first because what I got didn't quite match my expectations, but I learned a lot about the staples of the Spanish palette by the end of my time and always looked forward to coming home and eating a traditional home-cooked Spanish dinner with my host family every night.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I made a conscious effort to integrate myself, meet Spanish people, master the language, and learn about the local culture. In the end, I was very pleased with how connected I felt to Madrid and the people I met, but very sad to leave. Upon returning to the US, I've had a difficult time with transitioning back into US culture and feeling displaced.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had one minor injury during my time, and the program staff were very helpful in setting me up to see a doctor and getting it taken care of. It was a fast and easy process to see the doctor and it reminded me very much of my experiences with healthcare in the US.

* Safety:

I felt very safe throughout my time in Madrid. My best advice for future students is to make conscious efforts at familiarizing themselves with their environment– both the physical environment (streets, public transportation, lit and non-lit areas) and the cultural environment (when people go out, what people wear, what makes people stand out). Knowing your surroundings and understanding how to blend in are important, in my eyes, for one's ability to make informed safety decisions in a foreign country.

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

I can't imagine there being a better program to fulfill my goals of improving my language skills, immersing myself in local culture, and gaining deep learning and understanding of the place and people I chose to discover during my study abroad.

Finances

* 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)

In Madrid, it is very easy to get basic necessities such as food, for under $100/week.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? On average, about $175/week (I traveled a lot)

Language

* 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

My program required agreement to a language pledge, meaning I agreed to only speak in the target language during my time abroad.

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? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 3000 level college courses at UConn (C1)
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Only speak in the target language. Listen to music and watch videos in the target language. Make friends that you didn't previously know, in the target language.

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

  • Local Students
  • 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?
  • the student resources
  • the flexibility in academics and extracurricular activities
  • my classes
* What could be improved?
  • enforcing the language pledge
  • more group excursions
  • at times, classroom technology
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It is cheaper to buy bus and train tickets directly from the ALSA, Megabus, and Renfe websites as opposed to through the Omio platform.

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.'