About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Major: Public Policy Minors: Chemistry & Spanish for the Medical Professions
Program: IES Abroad Salamanca Advanced Spanish Immersion
Location: Salamanca, Spain
Term: Spring 2020
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I decided to study abroad to fully immerse myself in the Spanish language in order to take strides in improving my grammar, and to also learn about Spanish culture and connect with my roots. I was initially considering the advanced Spanish track in Seville, but after doing research I decided that Salamanca's Advanced Spanish Immersion program was the perfect fit for me, considering my primary objective in studying abroad was to put my grammar into practice and step out of my comfort zone to improve my Spanish skills.
What did you learn about yourself?
Though my experience was certainly cut short, I learned so much about my Spanish roots and my Spanish abilities in all aspects. In just the first week of class I noticed a monumental difference in my grammar skills and by the end of my two months I could not believe how much I had grown as a student, a Spanish speaker, and how much more independent I had become. Most importantly, my time abroad was a breath of fresh air and felt almost like a reward for all of the hard work I have done to get to where I am. As an aspiring Med School student, I tend to be hard on myself and not recognize all that I have done, and being abroad gave me so much time for self-reflection and affirmed all of the decisions I have made and paths I have taken. It was truly a humbling experience and even know is so hard to put into words.
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my absolute favorite memories is from a trip I took to Ibiza. I got to watch the sunset from atop a fortress and it was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life and gave me time and space to reflect on my career at UNC and how I got to be so fortunate as to study abroad and experience Spanish Culture. An equally favorite memory was walking through my town at night because the buildings shine gold and it is just a sweet treat to see the beauty and history that Salamanca has to offer. It gave me that feeling I get every time I walk past the Old Well on UNC's campus and it truly made me feel at home and like I was in the right place doing what I was meant to be doing.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
I think the beauty of studying abroad is the uncertainty. Sometimes it takes jumping into the unknown to truly grow as a person and appreciate yourself and the world you live in. There will always be struggles in life but learning how to work through them is so important, and knowing you have such a great support system while abroad really creates a safe space for you. All of the IES abroad staff were there as much as you needed them to be.
How do you identify?
First Generation College Student, Covenant Scholars, Scholarship Recipient
Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
Being an individual that identifies as Latina, studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country was definitely an adjustment for me, despite being proficient in Spanish. I had to learn a whole new culture and saw how it contrasted from mine (Colombian). Many people thought it would be familiar territory for me, but not only was I adjusting to the culture from the American standpoint, I was also adjusting from my Spanish background standpoint. Being abroad was huge for me because my ancestors migrated from Spain to Colombia so being able to see and experience Spanish culture first hand made me feel closer than ever to my roots.
Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
Many people thought I was silly for wanting to study abroad and do a Spanish immersion program because of my family background and Spanish proficiency, but there is more to it than that. I would advise students in similar situations to follow their gut because ultimately you are the only one that can decide what is best for you. I would also advise them to be open minded and receptive to the cultural differences because every Spanish-speaking country has it similarities and differences and that is what makes them beautiful and provides an unparalleled opportunity to learn and grow. For fellow first-ten students, I would encourage them to chase after their dreams. I dreamed of studying abroad for years but was not sure if I would be able to afford it and everything worked out in the end and I could not be happier or feel more blessed to have had such a wonderful opportunity that I got to share with others as a course correspondent and hope to share with others as a Study Abroad Peer Ambassador.
If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
The IES abroad staff was absolutely amazing. They were there as much as you needed them and I knew should I ever need them exactly who I could go to. Not only did we have the main staff and the teachers, but we also had the peer mentors!