Meet Cara - SYA Spain 2018
How did you come to the decision to attend SYA?
I love learning and speaking Spanish and I wanted to challenge myself by stepping out of my comfort zone. I also love seeing new places and learning about other cultures and I felt like SYA was a great way to combine my interests and have an eye-opening experience.
What did you learn in your year abroad that surprised you?
I was surprised to learn that many Spaniards have a strong connection to the city they grew up in and to their families. Most of the people I talked to, including both of my host parents, went to University and settled down in the same city they were born in, which is different from the United States, where many people go to college away from home. They also have very strong relationships with their families and eat almost every meal together, including lunch on weekdays, and many people live at home until they are out of college or later.
Do you have a particularly special host family moment?
My family couldn’t stay for the entire winter break, so I spent the last few days with my host family and they took me to Jaca, a nearby town. They brought me skiing with them and showed me a huge abandoned train station in the mountains and we ate dinner with the extended family. I felt included in the family and I felt like my host family really wanted me to see as much as I could and have the best possible experience in Spain.
At SYA, the curriculum lives in and outside the classroom, what memorable educational experience did you have outside the classroom?
For my Art History class, part of our homework was to go to museums and local buildings to see examples of the styles of art we talked about in class. It was fascinating to walk into a church that I had gone into before and recognize features and notice details that I had missed the first time. It was also helpful to see examples of architectural features in person because I understood them much better after seeing them up close.
How was your education at SYA different than at your high school?
I come from a large, public high school so many aspects of my education at SYA were different, but the feature that distinguished my SYA education the most was its hands-on nature. For every class, we had assignments that were directly relevant to our lives in Spain and required us to interact with our host families, other community members, or go to local museums or shops so we learned in and outside of the classroom. We also had the capstone project where each student was able to pick a topic that interested them and study it in depth with a travel component, which I loved. I chose to study how Manchego cheese was an example of sustainable development and for my travel component, I went to La Mancha and made a batch of Manchego cheese with a local cheesemaker, which was really interesting and fun.
What advice would you give to someone who considering SYA?
Spending an entire year abroad seems like a lot, but the experience is so unique and the year flies by. Going out of your comfort zone and spending time with people who have a different culture will open your eyes and give you a new perspective on the world and will help you grow as a person.
How did your year abroad change you?
I think I am more empathetic now and understand more about the different ways that people live. I also think that I am more independent and organized. I learned to be responsible for myself and do things on my own. Since I traveled often and planned a few of the trips myself, I am confident in my abilities to plan a fun trip to a new place and problem solve when issues arise.
How did SYA impact your college application process?
Since I went to SYA as a sophomore, I just finished my junior year and have not applied to colleges yet. However, SYA has made me look further into the Spanish departments and study abroad opportunities at the schools I am interested in. My capstone project also taught me about sustainable development and I am looking into studying environmental science and exploring sustainable development in more detail as part of my college education.
What life skills do you feel like you learned while at SYA?
I think my sense of empathy improved because I learned about different ways of life and new ways of viewing the world. I also learned how to organize myself better by planning my time well and staying on top of everything I had to do with less guidance from parents. I also learned how to navigate through an unfamiliar city and be comfortable in a new place. I gained confidence in myself and my Spanish abilities and now can interact much more easily with new people.
To learn more about SYA Spain, check out the Spain Campus page.