Alexa Kroonblawd - 2013 Program Participant

Alexa Kroonblawd is a recent graduate from Grand Valley State University with a B.A. in vocal music and a minor in Spanish. Her first experience with travel began early, as she was born in Hong Kong, China and lived in Taipei, Taiwan until she was almost seven. During her studies at GVSU, Alexa utilized ISA’s program in Valencia to expand her Spanish studies and explore yet another country. With much experience abroad behind her, Alexa hopes to work at a study abroad organization in the future, so she can help other students go abroad too!

Alexa and Her Friend in Front of their Apartment Building
Alexa and her friend in front of their apartment building. Photo by Sheila Kroonblawd

Why did you select ISA for your program abroad, as opposed to another program provider?

I chose ISA over other study abroad programs because I had other friends who went through their company and had nothing but good things to say. I did my own research to see if it met the requirements that I was personally looking for, including location and classes offered. The ISA Valencia program fit perfectly with what I wanted because Valencia had a temperate climate, was close to the water, had less tourists, and had an interesting history.

You are a GVSU Alumni, what advice would you give to other GVSU students about to embark on a study abroad program in Valencia?

If I would give advice to other GVSU students going to study in Valencia, I would tell them to make a list of things to see before they arrive. There are a lot of museums and a lot to see, and I regret not being able to go to all of them, mostly because I didn’t know about them until later in my program. Take advantage of the beach too. My apartment was about a 20 minute bike ride away, which was perfect! Although I live fairly close to Lake Michigan, nothing quite beats the Mediterranean sea.

Another thing I would recommend would be to go during the second semester if they can, because Las Fallas happens in March. It’s one of the largest festivals in the world and is one that shouldn’t be missed. I went during the fall, which was still amazing, but I would have liked the opportunity to participate in the festivities.

What made Valencia the best place to study abroad in Spain?

For me, Valencia was the best choice in Spain, but I slowly realized this as I was traveling in Spain to other cities. While I enjoyed other cities, I always felt at home when returning to Valencia. Barcelona was very different and there was a lot to see, but a lot of people speak English, which isn’t what I was looking for since I wanted to improve my language skills. I enjoyed Seville and Granada because their influence from Moorish Spain was so prominent, but they weren’t as close to water as I would have liked. Valencia also had it’s own history and was a fairly large city, but it felt like home to me and I grew to appreciate and love it more and more every day.

What was your favorite class during your time abroad?

My favorite class would have to be History of the Language. We began with learning a bit of Latin, since it is the root of all romance languages. We then migrated into medieval Spanish, and how the words from Latin evolved into this new form of Spanish. We eventually ended the class with how the Spanish that we speak was formed and why Latin American Spanish and Spain Spanish are different. This class helped me to better understand the history of the country as a whole as it was formed and changed and a little more about how Spanish came to Latin America.

Overall, how would you say study abroad has impacted your life?

Study abroad as impacted my life in ways I can’t even put into words. Valencia wasn’t my first trip overseas, but it was the first time I spent extensive time in Europe. Every time I travel, I learn a bit more about myself and become just a hair more independent. You have to learn how to travel by yourself, make plans, get yourself from one location to another, all in a language that isn’t your own.

People try to prepare you for the culture shock when you arrive, but what you really need to think about is the culture shock when you return back to the U.S. You aren’t the same person you were when you stepped onto the airplane at the beginning of your trip, and you never will be because the world looks a little smaller and a little clearer. Study abroad was the best decision I ever made, and every day I try to find a reason to go back.