Ethan Ragins - 2014 Program Participant
View of Grenada. Photo by Ethan Ragins
Why did you choose to study abroad while in high school?
I love exploring all parts of the global community and the more often I get a chance to participate in such an international experience, the better.
What made you select Spain?
Honestly, the soccer and the culture were two main aspects. Europe, as opposed to Latin America, seems rather glorified in the United States. Spain is known in the U.S. to not share the same wealth as some European countries, so this strange dichotomy intrigued me. Between that, as well the fact that I have always supported Real Madrid (even under duress from much of my family), and that much of my family comes from Western Spain, I just wanted to explore what Spain truly was like.
Tour of Carlos V's Palace in the Alhambra.
What was a typical day like for you in Spain?
On weekdays, I would wake up, get ready, have a light breakfast, and then head off to class. The University was about a 20 to 30 minute walk from our house, but Aaron, my housemate, and I explored the neighborhood and quickly identified relative shortcuts despite the seemingly haphazard roads in Grenada.
Once at class, we would generally have a grammar-intensive lesson followed by a more cultural-focused lesson with a break between. After class, we would walk back to our house, clean up, eat lunch, and then relax during the siesta until our afternoon activities. On occasion I would actually get classwork done during the siesta, but usually I was so tired in the heat that I would just relax. As strange as it felt sleeping in the middle of a hot day, I quickly adjusted and began taking advantage of the siesta hours to actually sneak in a siesta.
After it cooled down, we would do our daily events, be it horseback riding, exploring La Parque de Ciencias, going to the Arabic baths, or on the occasions that we had no scheduled events, we managed to go get ice cream, watch the sunset, or go to the markets. After all of the days activities, we would return home, get dinner, finish classwork, and eventually go to sleep.
What was the most memorable experience you had during your time abroad in Spain?
There were plenty of amazing moments while I was with Sol Abroad. I would say my top three would have been:
- When I first got into Madrid on the way back from Grenada the first time seeing the capital of Spain. It was a completely unique experience.
- When our group of students went of our own volition to explore the Albayzin and watch the sunset
- After the rest of the high school group left, being able to enjoy an afternoon in Grenada with college students from the United States and France that we had joined
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a high school student abroad?
I think navigating through the streets of both Madrid and Grenada was truly the biggest difficulty I faced, although I feel after my stay it was by far my most developed skill.
What advice would you give to other high school students interested in studying in Spain?
Do something every day. Love the culture, the Spanish, and the history, and you will love your experience.
What are the top reasons you'd want to go abroad again?
Truly, my experience with Sol Abroad was so phenomenal, I just want to add more amazing experiences like this. Also, I just love all aspects of foreign cultures and realizing more of what makes up humanity as a whole, beyond San Diego, California.
Visiting Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
How has your study abroad experience impacted your life?
I truly believe I flourished as an individual, and reached a point that I was confident in my abilities to do what I wanted, as I wanted. Also, I discovered yet another facet of what it means to be a human living on this massive planet.
If you could go abroad again, where would you go?
If I could go abroad again, I would either go to Italy or Istanbul because the culture is so rich and there is so much to see and do, and I just love the Mediterranean.