Carolyn Boudreau -  2013 Program Participant

Carolyn with her fantastic API Resident Director, María.
Carolyn with her fantastic API Resident Director, María.

Why did you choose to study abroad in Salamanca?

I chose to study abroad because as a Spanish major in college I knew how important full immersion was in order to become fluent. I chose to study in Salamanca, Spain because I knew it wouldn’t be as touristy as Madrid or Barcelona, but knew it was close enough to Madrid that I’d still be able to travel. I also liked that it was a college town and as such, would have a lot of other students there. 

What made API in particular such a standout program?

As a Spanish major I was looking for a very immersive program, but one that offered support within the host country. The latter stipulation was very important to me. With API I was able to take classes with all Spaniards, really pushing myself academically. By participating in the Integrated Studies Program with Spaniards, I was able to really immerse myself while still having the comfort of on-site support. Knowing that there would be Resident Directors on-site was a huge draw for me.

If I needed anything at all the RDs were there for me. They helped me choose my courses. They walked me to my classes on the first day so I would know where to go. They came on all the API excursions with us and told us so much of the cultural history. They helped me plan my own individual trips, providing any insight they could if they had been to my desired destinations. While there, I truly felt they would have bent over backwards to make me comfortable and that was so encouraging, to be in another country and feel so supported. 

Looking back I am thrilled at my decision to study abroad with API. From the pre-departure advising, to the on-site support, to the re-entry support they have provided me with, I can truly say I wouldn’t have wanted anything about my experience to have been different and I am so grateful to API and its amazing staff for all their support and belief in me.

What was your living situation like?

Because I was looking for an immersive experience, I chose to live with a host family in Salamanca. I lived with a woman and her 31-year-old son. I had such a positive experience with them. Based on what I have heard, I think a lot of people are hesitant to live with a family because they think the rules will be drastically different – stricter, with a curfew, etc. I can honestly say that when I got to my host family my host mom gave me a tour basically saying, “Here is your room, here is the bathroom, here is the living room, here is the kitchen, and here are your house keys. Let me know if you need anything.”  She was so kind, but she also understood that I was 20 years old.

It was still very important to me that I had a good relationship with my host family and over time I was able to build that relationship a great deal. My host mom and I watched a soap opera together 3 days a week, and we went to the pool to swim laps together one day. She was an amazing painter, and I love art and dancing, so she was very informative in regards to opportunities in Salamanca. She also taught me how to make some of my favorite dishes she had cooked and I still make them today, always remembering how great her cooking was! 

Take us through a typical day as a student in Salamanca.

A typical day went something like this: I woke up around 8:30 a.m., ate breakfast, showered and got ready for class. It was about 15 to 20 minutes to walk to my classes. I always had morning classes from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and then I would go back to my host family for lunch. We would eat lunch around 2:30 and it always consisted of an amazingly delicious three-course meal! After lunch I would take a siesta and then head out for my afternoon classes, which varied day-to-day.

On Mondays I had afternoon classes from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., while on Thursday I only had class from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.  After my afternoon classes I would sometimes go to a café with a friend or go shopping before heading back to my house. Dinner was typically around 9:30 p.m., which seems late, but when you eat such a big lunch at 2:30 it is actually great. Dinner is typically a much lighter meal, sometimes leftovers from lunch or from the previous day.

I had no classes on Fridays, so I traveled a lot on weekends or caught up on homework as needed. Because I did the integrated studies program, I did have a lot of work for my classes. I took five classes – four literature and one art history course. I worked very hard while I was there, but I am so glad I did because I can confidently say I came back fluent. 

What are some reasons why you'd return to Salamanca?

Because Salamanca was so small, I was able to build such strong connections while there, both through API and on my own. I am saving my pennies to make it back there soon because, as cliché as it may sound, I left part of my heart in Salamanca. I grew up so much there. I experienced so much culture, embraced different foods, a different pace of life. It was so amazing to break out of my comfort zone only to find upon my return to the U.S. that my comfort zone had only expanded. Salamanca is an amazing place to study because the University of Salamanca is the oldest university in Spain. It draws so many students from all over Spain, and a huge population of international students from the United States and all over Europe. I met Spaniards, Italians, Germans, French, as well people from all over the U.S.

Would you recommend your API program to others?

Absolutely – that is what I am doing right now! Upon my return to the US I knew I would experience some reverse culture shock and wanted to do what I could to stay involved in the world of international education to help with the re-entry. When I returned to my host institution I wanted desperately to work in their study abroad office and to encourage other students to go abroad. I was told that only students with work-study could work in the office, and was very disappointed until I heard about what API had to offer.

During my senior year at the University of Vermont I became an API Peer Mentor. I worked as a middleman between API and the UVM study abroad office, helping to spread the good word about study abroad. I hosted 2 events each month I was at school, ranging from informational tables to classroom visits to meeting with UVM tour guides to discuss how they promote study abroad to prospective UVM students. I had such a positive experience recommending study abroad that I applied for an internship with API.

am proud to say I am currently API’s Northeast Recruiting Intern and I travel to different study abroad fairs around New England spreading the very contagious travel bug and helping students to make their way overseas to study!

What pointers can you give to anyone who is planning to study abroad?

* Before you go make sure you research your host country. Learn who the president is.  Learn what the flag looks like. Know what and where the capital is. Know what type of government is there. Read about their culture - what do they embrace and what do they reject? The more you can prepare yourself the more comfortable you will feel initially in your host country.

* Once you are there, try everything. Embrace the culture. Embrace the food.

* Step outside of your comfort zone. Think outside of the box.

* Put the STUDY back in study abroad. (You’re not taking a semester off, you are taking a semester away, so yes, you still have to do the work)

* Get to know your resident directors and utilize them – they are there to help you! If you are unhappy about anything, let them know because they will do whatever they can for you.

* Travel as much as you can. Plan ahead for your trips to be sure you can be the most economical in your travels.

* For those traveling to a country that does not speak your native language, learn a new word in the host country’s language each day.

* Take an obnoxious amount of pictures.

* Blog! I blogged the entire time while I was abroad. It was a wonderful way to share my adventures with anyone who wanted to know what I was up to and now it serves as an amazing scrapbook!