Adriana Smith - 2009 Program Participant

Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa - First time seeing snow!

What inspired you to apply for an international program?

I applied to an international program because I was curious to see the world. I wanted more language practice and to live in another country. I was thrilled by this opportunity even more because I received a scholarship for the program and wanted to use it before it was too late.

How did you find out about ISA’s program and how did you decide it was for you?

Applying to an international program was low priority during college. I hadn't been exposed to such opportunities as a first-generation student, which brought about questions of costs and attainment. One day, however, two study abroad advisors entered my class and introduced the ISA Santander program. Upon receiving the details during the presentation and meeting with one of the advisors, I applied. Really, it was the first program I encountered that provided the right sequence of courses I needed for my major. If I hadn’t applied to this program, I would have lost the chance to study abroad altogether.

What did you like about Santander?

Santander is on the northern coast of Spain, which has SPECTACULAR beaches. The sand was yellow, the waves were high, and the breeze was cool, which made for a perfect day. The location, in general, was small so it made getting around easier. Though a smaller city than where I am from, there were plenty things to do during the day and at night.

What do you think makes your program unique? 

Spain's historical and cultural background makes it a unique location, thus making the program as well. Visiting sites with prominent roles in the past brings about discussions around the dinner table with the host families, and classroom debates with participants and professors. If you're a big history, art, architecture, nature, or cathedral buff, then you will be in for an amazing experience.

What type of support did the local staff provide you with during your program?

The staff was always available if and when I had questions or concerns. During our program excursions, they challenged my language skills, my immersion in the culture, and provided a historical background of Spain that has stayed with me up till now.

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

I wished I had come out of my shell a little more during the program. Culture shock and homesickness affected me a bit, which held me back from going out with other program participants. Toward the end of the program, I became more relaxed and ventured out more than in the beginning. Overall, I enjoyed myself and wouldn’t have changed the experience, because I was able to return to Spain with a newfound confidence.

Describe a day in the life of a student in Santander.

I would wake up around 7 a.m. and get ready for my first class (SPN 2200) at 9 a.m. After eating breakfast, I took the 30 minute walk to Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo (UIMP). Arriving a few minutes before class, I would enter the cafeteria, where local students and program participants sat and met before the day started. Then, I would go to my first class. At 12, we would finish and chat with the program staff or other students before the second class of the day. Depending on the activities after class, I would have lunch with my host family or bring a bag lunch for a beach day.

We had excursions on most weekends, three program-related activities and two free weekends. During our programmed weekends, I would meet program staff and participants on campus and ride off to our destination, whether it was Picos de Europa or Santillana del mar. I spent one of my free weekends in San Sebastian, another coastal city I love. I spent the final free weekend in Santander discovering and appreciating my experience. And, eating chocolate coned ice cream!

What did you enjoy doing on your free time in Santander?

Exploration was, by far, the best part of living in Santander. I loved exploring the city. I visited the Maritime Museum, tons of cathedrals, and the beach, of course. I either hopped on the bus or walked around the city center. Although there were stations around town to rent bikes, I learned the city on foot.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I lived with a host family, who consisted of a single mother with her two children, one of which I shared a name. Having lunch and dinner with the family was fun and enjoyable. The children were entertaining and the host mother was very helpful. Even the food was delicious. I wished I had taken notes while she was cooking.

How has studying abroad affected your life? 

Studying abroad was one of the turning points in my life. I found a new passion and love for traveling and learning about other cultures and languages. This experience pushed me to think about the world in a critical, yet loving way. I realized also during and after the program the desire to see more students like myself: first-generation and minority. I was the only participant from that background and it made me appreciate my experience even more.