Diana Vasquez - 2014 Program Participant
Diana’s first time on a horse EVER! She was scared but through support from her peers, she did it!
What made you interested in study abroad?
I chose to study abroad because I know there is so much out there beyond what I know or what I have been exposed to. I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Europe, especially Spain. But, I did not know how I was going to do that. Once I found the perfect program, built up the courage to apply, and got my finances organized, I was ready!
Why did you select Spain for your study abroad destination?
I am a native Spanish speaker, but I wanted to perfect my Spanish. Also, there is so much history that I wanted to explore. With Sol Education Abroad, I was able to learn about Granada, the province of Andalucia, and Spain as a whole in a fun and innovative way! Plus, how could I pass up all of the attributes that came with going to Spain such as tapas!
What were your housing arrangements like while studying in Spain?
I was in a condo style apartment and I had a roommate from West Virginia. My host mother had her own room, and her 16 year old daughter had her own room as well. I had a lot of freedom with my host mother and she introduced us to almost all of her friends. The house was always clean, and she didn't expect or demand too much from us. Our host mother also took us out to her friend's birthday parties and out to eat.
Riding a Camel in Morocco, Africa! Also a first for Diana.
What was a typical day like as a study abroad student in Spain?
I woke up and went to class. Then, I grabbed some tapas or just a drink with friends after class. I did my homework and partook in siesta or walked around the city, and then I went and did a cultural activity with my program like horseback riding, hiking, or a Flamenco class!
What was the most memorable experience you had during your time in Spain?
My most memorable experience was definitely cliff diving at Nerja Beach into the Mediterranean sea. I felt weightless, free, adrenaline filled, terrified at the same time. I am not the best swimmer, I just swim to survive, but I somehow knew I would be fine. I felt alive! That is not something I do everyday for fun, and what better way to let loose than with friends and my site director! (Miss you Noelia!)
La Alhambra, one of the most beautiful places Diana said she has ever had the pleasure of experiencing. And, she go to go twice!
What was the biggest challenge you faced during your study abroad experience?
Realizing that not everyone is going to check up on you as often as you think. I was sort of expecting to be contacted a bit more by friends while abroad to see how I was doing, but I grew from the experience and realized that life goes on and that includes mine. I didn't dwell too much on the issue because I was having the experience of a lifetime, and everyone has their own ways to approach a friendship and their own reasoning as to why they do things.
What advice would you give to other Salem State University students interested in studying abroad in Spain?
DO IT! Our CIE (Center for International Education) is extremely helpful in your decision to pick a destination and super resourceful. Stay on top of financial aid and connect with the director to make sure all the appropriate paperwork is filled out on time. Also, make sure you know exactly when disbursement dates for loans and financial aid will be available. It will make your life so much easier! Lastly, HAVE FUN and let loose. This is the time of your life, and it is not everyday you have so many people to help you plan such a huge trip.
What are the top reasons you'd want to go abroad again?
I got bit by the travel bug. I got a taste of life outside of what I grew up knowing, and I loved it! Like I mentioned before, there is so much out there and being exposed to a different culture unlocked a different kind of happiness I never knew existed. I can only imagine what other locations or even returning to Granada, Spain would do for me.
Diana and her friend Sylena at La Feria (The Fair).
How has your study abroad experience impacted your life?I now take everything with a grain of salt because I know there are bigger things going on in the world and I can't let the small things affect me. Our problems always seem so much bigger until we sit back and realize we are but a small part of an enormous world and we should enjoy life to the fullest! I know it sounds crazy, but I became so self aware and feel so much more in control of my life.
Would you recommend your Sol Education Abroad program to others?
YES! Sol sets up cultural excursions everywhere, and the site directors tell you about other places you can go outside the excursions. Sol staff respond quickly to an concerns you may be having, and being part of a Sol group gives you discounts at certain places!
Diana standing at "The End of the World" in Lagos, Portugal.
If you could change one thing about your program what would it be?I wish I would have known earlier that you are not allowed to repeat excursions if you do two consecutive summer sessions. You have to pay to go on those excursions again, even though it was not ever mentioned before. I got my hopes up thinking I was going to be repeating excursions I really enjoyed since I paid for 2 summer sessions, but I guess it only covered the housing for the next month and that was not specified ever. Quite a few of us double summer session students were a bit disappointed.
Did you experience any kind of reverse culture shock when you came back to the US?
Absolutely. I found myself comparing the United States to Europe a lot. The freeness I felt in Spain was soon replaced by responsibilities the minute I came back. I missed the friends I made who live across the country, and I want to relive the memories and create new ones.
If you could go on another Sol program which one would you choose?
I would do the Sol program in Costa Rica! I think that would be amazing. The dollar is worth more, and the excursions would be amazing. Plus, I have always wanted to go zip-lining!