I’ve been asked the questions “Why did you choose Alicante,” “Do you wish you chose a different city,” and “Have you learned anything since you got here” a few times now, and I think it’s worth sharing my answers.
Why did I choose Alicante? Well I know myself pretty well and I know that I like living in a particular environment. In the US, I grew up in a small city and went to a high school that was basically separated into Harry Potter houses, giving students a more focused education and ensuring teachers got to know and care about the students. I then chose a small university with an average class size of 20 students (even though most of my classes had 35), and a reputation of professors truly caring about their students. I have lived in a controlled environment with a large support system my whole life, and I have loved every aspect of it. I know if I had chosen a city any larger than Alicante it would have been a much harder transition and I would be too overwhelmed to live in the new culture. Another important aspect of Alicante is the fact that it’s one of the warmest cities in Spain and I decided to study abroad during the winter months. As a California girl I needed to survive the experience without freezing to death. I also live 10 minutes away from the beach (walking), and there is a Renfe (train) station and an airport which are easily accessible and easy to navigate!
Do I wish I chose a different city? I’ve been going back and forth with this question for a while, but no, I don’t think so. There are of course cons to Alicante, one being that because it’s a small city, flying anywhere is expensive and has ridiculously long layovers. Another con is a CIEE issue that I really don’t understand. I am in the beginner spanish class and we are the only class that has Monday – Friday classes, everybody else is on a Monday – Thursday schedule. We are also the only class that starts at 9:00am, everybody else starts at 11:00am. Why on earth would they make us start earlier AND make us attend an extra class a week? GIVE US ONE OR THE OTHER. Other than that I think Alicante was the best choice for me, and I searched for a decent study abroad program for months before deciding on CIEE Alicante, so if I had to make the decision again I’d probably make the same choice.
Have I learned anything? Yes. This question is also harder because there are so many different answers, so bear with me. Obviously I’m learning a new language, but more importantly I’m liking learning spanish. I also chose Spain because I needed to knock out the two language GE requirements in one semester, but I didn’t think I would take the language courses as seriously as I am. I visited an American in Barcelona last weekend, and whenever he spoke english to a Spaniard I wanted to correct him and say it in spanish. When in a new city, even in the US, it’s important to learn more about people and about differences in their daily lives, and I appreciate people – by people I mean Americans – more when they acknowledge that. I’ve learned more about what I like and what I need from others vs. what I can (and want to) do myself. I’m observant, or at least I really try to be, and I notice how Spaniards look at us here. I want to respect their culture and be an asset to this city and to every city I travel to, which means not being a stand out American. I want to speak spanish first, and only speak english when I don’t know how to say something. I also really enjoy meeting people and learning about the world through others. Everyone has a different story and different problems, but that fact never resonated with me until now. It’s hard to describe, but I often find myself thinking about others and what makes them tick. If they’re stressed or happy, I wonder why and then think about how that emotion might dictate their whole day, even when it’s insignificant to every single other person on this planet. I think it’s so interesting that everyone sees the world differently, and I want to know everyone’s perspective to help mold mine. I want to know WHY people have certain values and why they think and act certain ways, not just the fact that they do. Like I said, it’s hard to describe, but learning the “why” is what studying abroad is all about – looking below the surface of the cultural and universal iceberg. I’m still learning more every day, but at least I know what I want and have more clarity about the direction of my future.
Life is an adventure, so keep exploring it!