¡Hola! My name is Olivia Geiger and I’m a junior studying Occupational Therapy and minoring in Spanish at Elizabethtown College. I made the amazing decision to study abroad in Valladolid, Spain this past fall semester. This life-changing decision, however, did not come so easily. Choosing to study abroad in Valladolid took a lot of decision making, something I am admittedly horrible at.
Growing up, my mom always told me to try new things because I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone. Looking back, when she said this, I don’t think she had pictured me taking her advice and wanting to travel to another country. When I broke the news to her that I really, truly desired to study abroad in Spain, she and my dad were shocked but eventually accepted it. I had hypothetically brought-up the idea a bunch of times prior to making my decision, but I had never been out of the country and I am a very reserved person who likes to be around familiar faces. However, I couldn’t get the idea of going to Spain out of my head.
I knew from the time I started at Elizabethtown College that I wanted to minor in Spanish. Everybody always asked me if I wanted to study abroad, and my answer was always “maybe.” Even as I was filling out my study abroad application, I was in denial. I had not completely accepted the idea that I wanted to travel outside of my comfort bubble for a whole semester! In the end, I decided to study abroad because I realized it would be a great experience for me to expand my Spanish language knowledge and awareness of other cultures.
Living with a Host Family
Deciding to study abroad in Valladolid was a whole different process. I knew that I wanted to go to Spain because I wanted to improve my Spanish, but there were a bunch of different program options to choose from. I ended up choosing BCA Valladolid for a bunch of reasons.
First, I knew that I wanted to live with a host family. I knew going into this experience that living with a Spanish family would be the best way for me to learn more about Spanish customs, food, and the language. So, I was glad that Valladolid had the option of living with host families.
Once I got to Valladolid, I met María, my host mom. I got to interact with her daughters and grandson when they visited, and I practiced my Spanish with her every day while we shared meals. Here, I was able to ask her all of my questions about Spain and her life. She didn’t know any English, so my Spanish-speaking skills improved quickly in our conversations. I also got to eat homemade, Spanish meals which were delicious! My favorites had to be paella and croquetas!
Another reason as to why I chose BCA Valladolid was because this area of Spain speaks pure, Castellano Spanish like I had learned throughout my high school and college career. Other locations speak different dialects and I wanted to make sure I was surrounded by Spanish speakers who I could interact with and practice with, to the best of my ability.
One of my favorite parts of studying abroad was meeting my friend Inés. She and I were part of an Intercambio, which is a language practice program. Inés and I would meet to speak Spanish for the first portion of our conversation so I could practice Spanish, and then we would converse in English for the second part so that she could practice her English. She lived in Valladolid and would show me her favorite locations around the city. It was a great way to learn more Spanish, make friends, and explore.
I also loved trying to blend in as a Spaniard. I enjoyed going into grocery stores or cafes and talking to the cashiers in Spanish. I felt accomplished when they did not notice that I was from another country. One time, I was speaking to a cashier in Spanish and a friend said something in English. The cashier got all excited and asked us where we were from. He said he hadn’t realized that we weren’t Spaniards and said that our Spanish was very good, which was exciting to hear!
The Perfect Study Abroad City
Another component that I considered when picking BCA Valladolid, was that I am not used to living in a city. At home I live on a farm, so living in a large city where most people don’t speak English honestly freaked me out. Valladolid seemed like the perfect small city, in comparison to other locations such as Barcelona. When I arrived, I knew I had made the right decision because I didn’t have to pay to use a metro to get to class or anything. It took me 5 minutes to walk to class, and I could walk or take the bus anywhere I needed or wanted to go to within the city. My classes also never had more than 8 people in them, which I enjoyed because it made learning and interacting with professors a lot easier.
Additionally, when I was researching Valladolid, I learned about all the museums, festivals, and beautiful landmarks that I would get to visit and experience. When I was there, my friends and I were able to go to many art and science museums, participate in the Festival of the Virgen of San Lorenzo, climb to the top of the cathedral, explore the “beach,” and discover the insides of all the beautiful churches and hidden secrets of Valladolid.
And She Lived Happily Ever After
Overall, I am extremely happy that I studied abroad in Valladolid. I made lifelong friends who I am still in touch with, and I got to not only explore the beautiful city of Valladolid, but also other Spanish and European destinations. I know its cliché to say how amazing and life-changing my experience was, but Valladolid truly changed me as a person and developed my cultural knowledge about another part of the world.
About the Author – Olivia Geiger, fall 2018 Valladolid, Spain & Elizabethtown College student
Amy is studying Occupational Therapy and minoring in Spanish at Elizabethtown College. Outside of class, she enjoys being in Elizabethtown College’s orchestra, working as an Overnight Visit Coordinator for the Office of Admissions, and volunteering.