Spain was great for my language acquisition January 02, 2020

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/31/2019 to 12/22/2019 with

PRESHCO: Study Abroad in Córdoba, Spain

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I depended my knowledge of Spanish, local Spanish culture and history, and my own self-confidence and global thinking. It was worthwhile in these senses, but who knows- I probably would have experienced the same things if I did another program somewhere else. The program was great but I just wasn't satisfied with my time in Spain, it didn't live up to my expectations.

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.

In this program, students take 2 PRESHCO courses with UCO professors and other PRESHCO students as well as 2 courses directly through UCO. Overall, courses are very easy with little work outside of classes. It is a mostly a lecture style education in Spain, which works for some people, but I found it horribly boring and unengaging. Classes are mostly listening to professors present powerpoint and their own ideas with little to no room for class discussion or for students to share their own ideas. Grades are mostly based on tests and exams, which was not ideal for my learning style. This is not the fault of PRESHCO, but more of a commentary on the education system in Spain. PRESHCO did a lovely job of supporting me, even hiring a tutor for one of my courses to help me understand the STEM topics I was learning in class better.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program administrators were very helpful and warm. They always made the effort to ensure we had access to appropriate information to succeed in Spain, assisted us through all parts of living there, and were open to listening to us when we had concerns and needed extra support. The program felt organized with lots of people in different roles to assist with specific areas of living in Spain. When I was sick, a program administrator went with me to a local clinic and pharmacy to address it. When I needed to vent my frustrations or look for advice, program administrators were there to listen and offer assistance. They were concerned with my wellbeing and wanted to ensure I enjoyed my study abroad experience.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I enjoyed living with a host family in Spain as it allowed me to practice my Spanish more, learn about local history and customs, and eat local cuisine I would not have known how to cook on my own. My host mom was wonderful to live with and I appreciated having someone to cook and clean for me- what a special luxury! The accommodations were comfortable with my own room and bathroom. I felt like the home was my own. The program only places students with host families, which worked for me but not for everyone as it can be hard for matches to be great all of the time. The downsides to living in a private home are that you have don't have the ability to connect with other students as I found most in Spain have their own shared apartments and dont spend lots of time in faculty campuses (they are all spread out making it even harder to have a central place to meet people). I couldn't have people over often (I only did twice the whole semester) and it took a lot of extra effort to try to hang out with people. Living with a host family added an extra layer of difficulty to be social and meet people in Spain.

* Food:

Meals were provided by my host family, and they did their best to meet my pescatarian dietary requirements as well as my own preferences. Food was local cuisines, which was fun to experience.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

While I loved learning more Spanish language and culture by being in a local university, I found it very difficult to meet people and make friends while in Spain. This is partly due to the language barrier, the fact that I was only there for 4 months, and that I was shy and exhausted trying to adjust to a new language/culture/location for the first two months so I didn't have energy in the beginning to make a social effort. I found it hard to connect with other students, especially Spanish students due to most students only are in the faculty I studied at for just their class before running home to their shared apartments. It didn't feel like there were locations to casually meet people and it felt like in order to hang out with someone outside of school, you had to arrange something specific, not just have them over for a movie and snacks (I couldn't often what with living with a host family). Perhaps if I had had more time and energy, I would have eventually made some local Spanish friends. I mostly just had acquaintances from classes. I felt like I was living a local experience by living with a host family, attending a local university, speaking the language, and sending so much time in one city. If I had connected on a deeper level with local students, I would have felt more integrated in Spanish culture.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Healthcare was easily accessible as the program made an effort to have a staff member go with us to doctors/clinic if we were sick and to indicate to us the nearest pharmacies for what we needed. I once had a fever and needed medicine during a local holiday. The program paid for my taxi to a pharmacy that was still open during that day. A challenge I encountered was that there I couldn't access mental health care providers.

* Safety:

I felt extremely safe in Cordoba, Spain. I wasn't worried to walk around late at night (more than the normal precautions one takes) and I didn't encounter any violence or street harassment. The program made a great effort to ensure we were taking safety precautions, particularly when traveling outside of our host city.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

I wish I had known how potentially boring living in the conservative town of Cordoba would be. This program was great for my language acquisition but incredibly boring academically and socially.

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)

Food was provided by my host family so I never had to eat out, the program offers a large sum of cultural reimbursement for within-Spain travel costs and cultural activities, and the program refunded me for transportation expenses to and from one of my classes in a further-away faculty.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $15

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

We were encouraged to use the language constantly, even with other program participants and people really did stick to that agreement.

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? 200 level
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? I found it challenging at first to get into the mode of constantly speaking Spanish and resisted it as well at first. Eventually it got much easier with time and practice. Its something you just have to force yourself to do because if you dont you will never learn the amount you could by speaking it constantly.

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
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Language Acquisition
  • Travel with Spain
  • Administrative Support
* What could be improved?
  • Connection with local students
  • Option to live not with a host family
  • Support to students with mental health concerns
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew this town was smaller with less things to do and that it is a conservative town. I wish I had know that the Spanish would be hard at first and that my ideal image of my Spanish study abroad experience may not be lived up to. I wish alums of the program talked about the hard parts more and not just the positives so I would have known to be ready for those parts.

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 Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.