Hello from the Portland Airport! My name is Claire, and I’m a sophomore at UA studying Spanish and Geography. This semester, I’m studying abroad in Valencia, Spain with ISA’s Hispanic Studies program. But why this program? Why now?

A variety of factors influenced this program choice. I’ve wanted to study abroad in Spain since sixth grade, so I knew I needed to work hard to make it possible. The first thing I did when I started the study abroad process was talk to my Education Abroad advisor. She couldn’t pick the program for me, but she gave me the tools to find one that worked. With that information, I started the most challenging part of the journey. I had a few crucial things I was looking for in my future program. Of course, I wanted a program in Spain. I also wanted a program that would help me achieve my goal of becoming fluent in Spanish: classes taught in Spanish, the opportunity to live in a homestay, and a timeframe that would allow me to be home for summer. Additionally, I wanted to be able to pay for the program completely using my scholarship. Though these parameters made it hard to find a program (and I spent many hours searching), I eventually found the program I’m doing now. What helped me fit these parameters was being willing to consider lesser-known cities and putting in the work with research (checking all the affiliate providers multiple times and comparing the possible options once I narrowed them down). Studying abroad in Europe on a budget is possible, so if you’re considering your options, don’t rule anything out! Decide what’s most important to you and use research to make those things possible.

Once I committed to my program, I prepared in many different ways. I took a Spanish class with a Spanish professor. I was able to talk to her about Spain and get accustomed to Spain’s dialect, which I know will be helpful. She connected me to one of her past students who had also studied abroad in Valencia. She had a wealth of knowledge on travel, what to do in the city, and how to integrate into the community, which was invaluable to me as I prepared. I also read guidebooks on Valencia and learned more about the city. I still feel unprepared, but I know I’ll learn as I go. Any preparation will be helpful. 

I’m feeling many mixed emotions as I wait to board my flight. I’m sad to leave home, but I know what that feels like—I’m away for months every semester. I’m sad to leave friends, too. Since I live so far away, I won’t see most of them until August. I’m worried I’ll miss out on critical opportunities on campus and fall behind. On the other hand, I am so excited to go to Spain and fulfill my sixth-grade dream. I’m thrilled to develop my Spanish skills and (hopefully) become fluent, which will be invaluable in the future. I’m excited to make new friends and have new experiences. So many unknowns come with this program and living in a new country, but I’m learning to be flexible and accept that I can’t control everything. This valuable lesson will help me as I continue through this program and the rest of my life.

If you’re considering a study abroad program in Spain, I hope this was helpful! I’m excited to share more of my adventures in the coming months. Until next time!