Study Abroad Program: AIFS Salamanca, Spain (Academic Year)
Other Countries you have visited: England, Morocco, Czech Republic, Portugal, France, and Peru
I knew that I didn’t want to have a cookie-cutter college experience and studying abroad gave me that opportunity I was looking for to do something different. On top of that, I enjoyed learning Spanish in high school and thought about studying the language at NIU. I had always heard that immersion is the best way to pick up a language or improve your speaking skills, so I just went for it.
I went on a weekend excursion with my program to Portugal. We visited several coastal towns and spent a lot of time on the beach. We weren’t a very large group, maybe a dozen or so, and we really got to know each other on that trip. We sat on the beach in Nazare and talked about our life in the States, what we wanted to do after studying abroad, and a lot of other things. I met some of my best friends while studying abroad, and that weekend is a great example. You build an amazing bond with those people.
I went to Morocco with a small group of students from my program. Morocco was never on my radar in terms of where I wanted to visit but I’m so glad that I went. It showed me a culture that is so different than life in the States. The contrast between life in Morocco and life anywhere else I had visited was striking. I also got to ride a camel, which was terrifying but kind of awesome.
Studying abroad makes a student unique, which is extremely important upon graduation. Not only that, it broadens your perspective and enhances your understanding of diversity. But on a more personal level, studying abroad really gives students an opportunity to become more independent and to learn more about themselves, as well as meet people from all over the United States and the world.
Do it! Studying abroad is well-worth the time, effort, money, and initial anxiety. It was the defining year of college for me and really shaped who I am and who I want to be. Other than that, these are my tips: Pack light, live like a local, try new food, deal with homesickness but then move on, get off of your computer or smartphone and embrace the culture, and finally, document your experiences through photos or blogging.