Tyler Cooksey - 2012 Program Participant

Tyler Cooksey believes he made the best decision of his life when he decided to study abroad. As a Communications major at the University of Kentucky, he wanted to broaden his horizons and pursue a route different than what most of his classmates were experiencing. He chose to study abroad in Spain, and is still benefiting from this decision in both his personal and professional life.

Tyler and his classmates on a trip to Toledo, Spain.
Tyler and his classmates on a trip to Toledo, Spain.

How did you come to choose ISA over other study abroad programs?

Before selecting a study abroad program, I made sure to thoroughly check the information and reviews on as many programs as I could before committing to a decision. When I encountered ISA it appeared they were extremely focused on each individual, providing as much assistance and support as possible. This was really important to me because I realized how big of a step moving to a new country and fully submerging yourself into another culture must be. By reading the reviews and watching a couple videos uploaded on the site, it made me realize that I would always have assistance and resources if needed. I had many questions and concerns that arose, but any time that I contacted ISA for information they were extremely informative and reassuring. 

I was also excited to hear of how well they integrated excursions and experiences into the term abroad. While furthering my education abroad was very important to me, it was also imperative to me to learn the culture and experience as much as I could in another country. Whether it was weekend traveling to other cities or countries, touring cathedrals or popular landmarks, or outdoor activities like kayaking or playing soccer with the locals, it appeared that ISA had it all. Now that the program has passed I'm happy to say that ISA fulfilled all expectations I had and more.

What advice would you give to other students studying Spanish in Sevilla?

The best advice I could give fellow Kentucky students is to really go out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself during your term abroad. Yes, there will be many American students who you can communicate easily with and that have shared similarities, but you also have those at home. Go out into the communities, find people from different backgrounds and people who cannot communicate English well, practice your Spanish with these individuals no matter how difficult it may be at first, and don't give up! These moments when you break out of your comfort zone and attempt to fully immerse yourself in the culture and language of Spain are the moments you will always remember!

When I studied abroad I went with a close friend who minored in Spanish and knew the language quite well. This friend and I opted to live in an apartment instead of having a host family. I found that I often leaned on his knowledge and experience with the language to help me communicate. If I had lived with a host family and forced myself to communicate in Spanish on my own more, I would have picked the language up far more easily. So while it may be difficult at first, you have to challenge yourself and communicate as much on your own as you can and as often as you can. This is what will really help you to learn the language and benefit your future quite a lot.

What makes Sevilla such a great place to study abroad in Spain?

Sevilla could not have been more of a perfect city to live in! The weather in southern Spain was always warm and sunny, and there was always a river for kayaking or beaches only a short train ride away. Sevilla is also known for its amazing cuisine including tapas, churros con chocolate, and paella. The history of the city was extremely fascinating and there were incredible landmarks like the Catedral de Sevilla (where Christopher Columbus is buried), the Plaza de Espana, and Giralda Tower. The city also has Maria Luisa Park, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful parks in all of Europe. And you can’t talk of Sevilla without mentioning the famous flamenco shows and bullfights! The combination of fascinating culture and landmarks along with great weather and cuisine made Sevilla the perfect choice for my experience abroad.

What was your favorite class and what made it so rewarding? 

My favorite class would be a tie between Spanish and International Relations. I will never forget our first day in Spanish class when our eccentric and cheerful teacher arrived and we quickly learned she spoke barely any English! The whole class would be taught in Spanish! I had barely any experience in Spanish at the time and was honestly terrified at first. But our teacher was so caring and helpful that I picked up more in a month than I ever imagined I could. The fact that we had to speak Spanish every time we communicated with the teacher (even when we were confused) really made me focus and strive to pick up the language. I will always be thankful for that class and my wonderful teacher. 

My International Relations course completely changed the way I view not only other countries but my own as well! We looked into actions that were taken by countries with perspectives from both sides. At one point, I was assigned to defend the actions of a country that the United States had previous conflict with. I had been raised with history being taught from the American perspective like many others. I had never considered the thoughts or reasoning another country may have. I had to research the actions this country took and why they felt the need to act in such a way. It was incredibly interesting to really think about the ways other countries and governments view matters and the reasoning behind their actions. For the first time I looked at that the thoughts, views, and needs I have as an American citizen along with my perception of wrong and right. I then attempted to see through the eyes of a citizen of another country and give their beliefs the importance I give my own. Because of this, I now have a completely different perspective on how countries interact with one another.

How did studying in Sevilla change your outlook on life?

My decision to study abroad is still benefitting me to this day, and it will continue to for a long time. I view the way I interact with people far differently after living abroad. I am more confident and fluid when I speak, knowing that there were times when I could barely communicate at all. I appreciate every meal I have after seeing a country with such a large number of homeless and unemployed citizens. I have friends from various countries I keep in contact with, and we share stories and views from our different cultures. I have so many memories and life-changing experiences to hold onto. All in all, studying abroad was exactly what everyone says: the very essence of a life changing experience.