Matt is a rising college that will study abroad in South America later this year. When selecting a study abroad destination he was mindful of choosing a location that allowed him to polish his Spanish language skills and would open his eyes to another culture.
Matt's experience with traveling and studying languages began several years ago in 2014 when Matt participated in a 4-week long exchange that brought him to Spanish city of Cordova, Spain. During his time abroad he explored the country, lived with a host family and attended classes at a local school. Upon returning, Matt and his family also hosted a student at their home who attended classes at Matt's local school in Boston.
Matt had a fantastic experience that continues to inform his studies and effect his global perspective today. So much so that this summer 2018, Matt returned to work with EdOdyssey as a Summer Intern to work with international students spending time in New England!
Below is an excerpt of Matt's alumni interview with GoOversees:
Why did you choose this program?
I chose this program because I had a hunger to see more of the world. I also chose to go to Spain specifically as I studied eleven years of Spanish, and something about it just wasn't clicking yet. Peter convinced me that the power of immersion would have tangible effects towards my language acquisition in Spanish, so I went for it! Had I not, I would not be where I am academically today, nor would my Spanish be as proficient as it is. I swear by it!
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The trip was cumulatively all-inclusive. The cost of the trip provided a group of five students and our trip moderator, Peter, with individual host families for two weeks, paired with students from Colegio de Fomento Ahlzahir, our host school. Transportation on long-distance train rides, buses, and vans were provided on our trips around southern Spain, as was admission into destinations such as the Alhambra.
The only thing we had to pay for were optional souvenirs and food (if we were not home or at a host family's house for meals). I did not spend a lot of money out-of-pocket.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I was incredibly nervous to go and immerse myself in another culture and language with which I was not confident in my ability. I was nervous to be alone with a complete group of strangers for my host family, and wondered if I would even be able to communicate with them.
My advice is to not let the hesitations and "what-ifs" get in your way of just saying yes and doing it.
Being able to see the world from a completely different perspective in another country is an opportunity that you simply should never pass up.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was terrified that my Spanish would not be good enough to adequately communicate with my host family. I had taken Spanish in school and learned countless chapters of vocabulary, but my grammar and speaking-fluency never worked together. To resolve this, Peter made us sign a language pact once we arrived at the airport in Spain. It was a promise to try our best and only speak Spanish – even to one another.
After a few days (and numerous corrections from my host father), my fluency began to improve as I began to literally change the language I was thinking in. Once you stop trying to translate everything in your head or pick apart every word in a conversation instead of just trying to comprehend the 'big picture', you literally start to think in your target language and maybe even dream in it – I know I did.
This short time in Spain did more for my Spanish than four years in the classroom. I jumped into A.P. Spanish the following year without taking the level four course right before it, as Spanish became my second language, and my confidence improved. Now in college, I plan to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina for six months because I want to perfect my Spanish and achieve fluency. By committing to my target language and exclusively speaking it through our language pact, I overcame a fear that nearly held me back from going in the first place!