Gaby Wheatley - 2014 Program Participant
Gaby in Madrid with her best friend.
Why did you choose to study abroad?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to improve my Spanish and have a fun summer. I had also traveled a lot with my family and wanted to try it on my own.
Why did you choose San Sebastian?
I chose San Sebastian because I heard great things about it and it's a Spanish speaking area.
Why did you select SPI Study Abroad over other organizations?
I chose SPI Study Abroad because my friends had traveled with them before and loved it! Westlake High School students have been using this program for a while, so I knew I would enjoy it too.
What were your housing arrangements like in Spain?
In Spain, I stayed with a family of five along with my best friend Caroline. This had to have been my favorite part. My homestay family was so kind and really made me feel at home. My host mother made amazing meals and never left me hungry. I will never forget my experience with the Torres', and I plan on staying with them again this summer when I go back to San Sebastian with SPI.
What was a normal day like as a high school student in San Sebastian?
A normal day in San Sebastian for me involved many fun activities. First, I would walk from the Torres' house to the Spanish immersion school with four other friends. The walks were beautiful (always awesome weather) and a great way to start the day. Then, my friends and I would spend about four hours practicing Spanish in a fun way at school. There weren't many worksheets, instead, we were getting comfortable with understanding and speaking Spanish by practicing verbally.
In the classrooms, we usually had a topic to discuss that had us practicing the Spanish language and learning about Spanish customs all at the same time! After school ended, my same crew would walk back home to eat the biggest meal of the day, La comida. After eating, we had time to relax a little before our afternoon activity.
An afternoon activity varied from surfing, cooking, zumba, exploring the city, shopping, or just chilling out on the beach. Every activity was awesome, and I'm excited to go back and do it all again this summer.
What was the most memorable experience you had abroad?
My most memorable experience was meeting new people that I still stay in touch with. It was awesome meeting so many teens that had the same interests as me. We all had a desire to see the world and experience different cultures.
What challenges did you face in Spain?
My biggest challenge was being confident while speaking another language (Spanish), but by the end of the trip that wasn't an issue anymore.
What advice would you give to other high school students who are interested in studying abroad?
My advice to other high school students wanting to study abroad is, don't hesitate if you have the option to go. It's a life changing experience that can only be this fun as a teenager.
How do you feel about returning to San Sebastian?
I am so excited to be going back to San Sebastian this summer. I am even starting to call it my second home. It’s a romantic city with kind people, great weather, and beaches. If you ever go, you will know exactly why I can't wait to go back.
How impactful was studying abroad for you?
Ultimately, studying abroad last summer with SPI changed my life. I never knew how much I liked traveling until I did it in this way (staying with locals and totally immersing myself into the Spanish culture). This trip lead me start travel blogging and even starting a non-profit, Over the Seas Foundation, to fundraise money for teens to study abroad.
Would you recommend SPI Study Abroad’s program in San Sebastian?
I highly recommend SPI Study Abroad to other teens. On this trip, I felt like I was a local instead of an American tourist.