James Dudley - 2014 Program Participant

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I believe the best way to learn a foreign language and better understand its history and culture is to experience it directly. I spend two months a year in Spain and have become completely bilingual. I wanted to learn French in much the same way, and the SPI Study Abroad program was an excellent chance to start. Home studies are fine, but nothing can beat the chance to live and learn in France itself.

View overlooking San Sebastian, Spain

Chatting with Spanish ladies in San Sebastian

Why did you choose Biarritz, France?

Biarritz offered an interesting mix of attractions. It is small, but not rural. It is French, but attracts visitors from all over Europe. It has a history going back centuries. Coincidentally, It has the added personal attraction that my grandfather spent part of his childhood growing up there. Biarritz was the location where SPI Study Abroad offered its summer program, and I was fine with the idea of spending time in a smaller town.

Why did you select SPI Study Abroad?

I did some research to find a suitable program in the summer, and I discovered SPI Study Abroad. They had also worked with my school in the past, and I could find good reviews. 

What were your housing arrangements like in Biarritz?

I stayed in the home of a charming French couple with two other SPI roommates. They were genuinely welcoming and made our stay very pleasant. In a particular way, we were very lucky. The lady was quite the skilled chef and provided us with a first hand experience of the famed food culture of France. Her meals were outstanding.

What was a normal day like as a high school student in Biarritz?

My mornings typically began by getting up around 7:30 a.m., taking a shower, and eating a quick breakfast. Once my roommates and I left the house, we would board the Navette Gratuite, a free-of-charge bus service, to the language school. There we would receive classroom instruction from a specified teacher based on our level of knowledge for approximately three hours, including a half-hour lunch break. From then on, we either had the choice of participating in an SPI-managed activity or absolute liberty.

Visiting Grand Plage in France

At the Grand Plage

What was the most memorable experience you had while studying abroad?

I particularly recall la Fete de la Musique celebration on the Grande Plage. They set up a stage adjacent to the beach and multiple bands performed several popular songs. What made it extra memorable was the fact that the concert took place during one of our last evenings in Biarritz.

What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?

The greatest challenge I faced was certainly adapting in the new environment. I was alone for the first time ever speaking a language I wasn’t too skilled at using. 

What advice would you give to other high school students interested in studying abroad with SPI?

Go for it! Experiencing other cultures is always a very enriching and eye-opening experience. Not only will you have the time of your life, but it will also teach you a lesson or two.

What makes Biarritz such a great place to study abroad?

Biarritz has all the advantages of being a small town: it is easy to move around, safe, and stress-free. It's also in a beautiful area of the country, very green, with a great beach. It has a history going back centuries as one of Europe's favorite resort towns.

View of San Sebastian, Spain

View over San Sebastian

How has studying abroad impacted your life at home?

The experience advanced my goal of learning French and increasing my knowledge of French culture. The SPI program’s blend of support and freedom helped make this happen, but more than this, it gave me confidence to venture out, with new friends or even on my own. I learned I could successfully manage new situations.

Would you recommend SPI to others?

Of course, it was an immensely gratifying trip filled with new experiences, managing to pull me out of my comfort zone. Not only this, but I also met some lifelong friends along the way.

If you could change one thing about your program, what would it be?

I would have stayed longer!