Silvia Villarreal - 2014 Program Participant

Study abroad students in Spain

La Sagrada Familia con mi ISA familia

Why did you decide to study abroad?

When I was ten years old, I knew the I was meant to visit Spain. My first semester at the University of Texas at El Paso I looked into study abroad. I was able to meet the qualifications and I applied to study abroad. When I was admitted to the University in Granada my twenty year dream became a reality.

Why did you choose ISA in Granada?

I picked my program because I wanted to know Spain in a cultural and historical level. I went with ISA because they had all the qualities I wanted in an organization.

What was your favorite part about Granada?

Everything, about Granada is sublime, from your distance sounds of Flamenco in the Sacramonte Caves to the magical "Red Castle" La Alhambra. When it snows you can see the white cap Sierra Nevadas in the distance. The gastronomy this city has to offer allows you to value the workmanship that people take pride in doing. Lets not forget the beaches are 45 minutes away. My first month in Granada I was on the beach each weekend, the Mediterranean Sea is a view to look at.

What made your program experience unique?

My program has excursions lined up for us on specific weekends, so we were able to visit other cities near Granada. Also, they had activities during the semester we were able to attend. One activity that ISA made for us was an exchange night, where you meet Spaniards and trade languages; you teach them English and they teach you Spanish. I still talk to my exchange to this day, his name is David and he is an architect. I was also part of several intramural sports representing ISA, our soccer team won first place; that was a great victory for ISA.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff was excellent. Marisa, made sure we were doing okay with our time away from home. TT, made sure my resident life was comfortable for me. Rossana, made sure we had enough activities for us to do on our time. Lorena, made sure I was understanding my classes. Angel, was our number one cheerleader. I felt like they were my family away from home.

Girls on the Mediterranean coast

Mediterranean Sun, with my ladies

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

What I would have done differently would be to study a year instead of a semester.

What was a typical day like as a student in Granada?

I would wake up at 9:30 a.m., go downstairs and eat breakfast, get ready, and head out to school. I would walk 15 to 20 minutes depending on the route I would pick that day. Arrived at the CLM and mingle with my peers trying to make plans for the day, night, weekend, or just ask how they were doing. I would finish class at 2:30 p.m. and walk back to the residence with several "resi" people, that is the name we would call each other who lived at the residence.

As we would arrive at the resi Antonio would ask us if we wanted soup 98 percent of the time my answer was yes. After, eating I would go to my room and relax for an hour before I would head out to go volunteer at an after school program teaching English to local immigrants in Granada. When I was done volunteering I had a class at 6:00 p.m. and was done by 8:00 p.m. I would meet up with several resi peeps and walk home to go eat dinner. Depending on how hungry I was I would eat as soon as I got home, if not I would wait until 9:15 p.m. to eat.

After that I would go upstairs and work on homework because I would make plans to go for tapas around 10:45 p.m. I would head out for tapas at a local tapas location and head back home like 1:00 a.m. and go to bed to go back to school the next day.

My days were always busy; everyday was a new adventure.

International students at La Alhambra in Spain

One last goodbye, La Alhambra, until we meet again

What did you enjoy doing on your freetime most?

Getting lost in the streets of Granada and meeting new people everyday.

What was your accommodation like?

Since I was older than the rest of the students in the the residence Maria Jesus put me in a room by myself, so I can have some sort of privacy. I loved everything about the residence. The staff and the students I interacted with vary from Americans, Spaniards, and other students from other countries; it was a good living environment for me.

Now that you're home, how has studying abroad in Spain impacted your life?

One thing I notice about being in Spain was how much family is important to them. The reason they have siestas is to spend time eating lunch together as a family. Before leaving to Spain my study advisor told me that they eat dinner from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m., that was a shock for me. The reason dinner is at that time is because the majority of the family is home and they want to eat together at the dinner table. I also learned not to stress about the little things in life enjoy each moment with people that you love and care about. The program impacted my life because I have made some amazing people all over the world. I know if I decide to go to back to Granada I have several homes available for me, but not just in Granada but all over. You have to put yourself out and learn. Stop being afraid and take chances anything is possible by working hard stay positive and dream big.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Oh! Roma!