Emily Johnson - 2015 Program Participant

Hierve el Agua, México

Hierve el Agua

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

My freshman year of high school, I fell in love with the Spanish language. After much consideration of all my options, I came to the conclusion that studying abroad would be the absolute best way to truly learn Spanish. I had previously traveled to Spain with my family, so I knew that traveling internationally was something that spoke to me.

Why did you choose Sol Abroad?

When I made the decision to study abroad, I began a search for how and where I was going. I asked my Spanish teachers, guidance counselors, did multiple internet searches, and finally I came across Sol Abroad. To be honest, when I found the high school portion of the website, I figured it all must be too good to be true. This program had everything I wanted and it was super affordable.

Santo Domingo de Guzman Church in Oaxaca, Mexico

Santo Domingo

What was your favorite part about Oaxaca?

Oaxaca was breathtaking. I didn't have any idea what to expect when arriving in Oaxaca, because looking up pictures on the internet cannot, by any means, do it justice. The mountains are unlike any other view and the streets are so colorful and vibrant, even in the rain.

What aspects of your program made it unique?

This program made every aspect of my experience incredible. From the beginning, they were very easy to communicate with and their on site staff was amazing. My director, Layla, answered all of our questions and really helped us shape our trip uniquely to us based on what we liked. They also picked outstanding host families. I could talk about how incredible my host family was all day, and I thank Sol Abroad for the relationship I now have with them.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Throughout the entirety of my time with Sol Abroad, beginning with requesting information from them about their program, they were especially helpful. They answered all questions that I had and were more than willing to assist me in any way throughout my time in Mexico as well. My on-site director was constantly making sure all of us were happy with our host families and living situations. I don't even have the perfect words to accurately describe how amazing the entire staff was throughout my trip.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

This sounds cliché, but if I were to do this trip over again, even one thousand times, I would do it exactly the same way. I was constantly finding new reasons to be happy and improving my language every single day. Not a day has passed since I have been home that I have not thought about my family and friends in Oaxaca. It was a life changing experience and I would not change for the world.

I guess if I HAD to choose something to do differently, I would do more. I would explore the city more and, when we had free afternoons, I would take greater advantage of the time that I had to just explore Oaxaca.

Huatulco-Playa Maguey, Oaxaca, México

Huatulco-Playa Maguey

Describe a day in the life of your program.

I would wake up, have breakfast with my host family and housemate, Sophia, and then she and I would walk to school. The walk to school was about 20 minutes, so we would usually stop at a café to get some coffee on our way. I then headed to my grammar intensive Spanish class from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and then we had a 30 minute break to get a snack and refuel for our next class. For my elective class I chose a conversation class.

After school, Sophia and I would walk home and relax for a bit before lunch. We would have lunch with our host family and then settle in for siesta. Usually at around 4 pm. or 5 p.m., we would head to our afternoon cultural activity, or occasionally we;d have a free afternoon, and then we would have the rest of the evening to do whatever we wanted. The group would usually head to a café for a while to work on school work or head home to spend time with our host families.

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?

My favorite activity was Latin dance class. We went during the first week as a group and I loved it so much I decided to go back again and again on my own.

Tell us more about your homestay. What did you like best about it?

I lived with a family that had a mom, two brothers, and a dad. We spent a lot of time with the aunt and the uncle as well, because they would come over for meals or we would go do things with them on the weekends. The house that I lived in was very nice, and in an amazing location where I could get almost anywhere I wanted to go by walking. My favorite thing about my accommodation was how beautiful the inside of the house was and its location.

Monte Alban in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca, México

Monte Alban

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

My time in Mexico taught me not only how to try new things and accept new ideas, but also how to experience everything to its fullest potential and truly treasure every moment. It has impacted my language learning skills and my drive to better myself a little every day with the language. This experience made me more independent, more tolerant, and taught me a lot about art, history, Spanish (among hundreds of other things), and about myself. I learned how I react in certain uncomfortable situations in order to better myself in those types of scenarios, and came to realize that language mistakes are not always a bad thing. People are excited you are there to learn their language.

This trip has expressed to me how beautiful this world actually is. There is so much more out there that I have yet to see and so many people that I have yet to meet. I feel that my trip abroad made me a more well-rounded person and has made me more comfortable in previously "scary" or uneasy situations.

This experience was the best decision I have ever made, and I am so glad to have made it with Sol Abroad. This trip will forever be an important part of me!