By Tori Baldassini
At the end of my second semester at Northeastern, I was feeling very confused about my academic path. The only thing I knew with 100% certainty was that I wanted to get a minor in Spanish. For Summer I, I went on the Spanish Language and Culture Dialogue of Civilizations in Sevilla and Barcelona. Not only did I learn a lot of Spanish, but I also learned a lot about myself and about how I wanted to spend the rest of my time at Northeastern.
My hometown is Hingham, MA, which is only a half hour away from Northeastern so my study abroad experience was the first time that I was significantly far away from home for an extended period of time. Although I definitely missed my family and friends (especially since it was the beginning of summer vacation), I found it very refreshing to be in a new and unfamiliar environment. I loved trying new food (tapas and paella are heavenly!!) and I loved exploring the streets of Sevilla and Barcelona. I spent four of my five weeks abroad in Sevilla so by the end of my stay, I was able to navigate through the city pretty well independently. It felt so rewarding to learn the city that well.
One of my favorite aspects of my experience is Spain was developing a relationship with my host family. In Spain, I lived with a single mother named Carmen and her two young sons, Jose and Javier. They didn’t speak a word of English, which made me nervous at first, but after a couple of days it felt natural to speak Spanish with them. I would spend hours talking to them and listening to their opinions and stories. Not only did I enjoy getting to know them better, but talking to them supplemented the information I learned in my Spanish culture class. It was such an enjoyable way to learn about another culture and it was so great to develop relationships with them. I can’t wait to go back to Sevilla and visit them! Through this experience, I realized that I would like to pursue other, more extended international experiences either through international co-op or a semester long study abroad. I think if I was able to study abroad for a longer period of time, I would be able to develop more friendships like these and learn even more about another culture.
I also enjoyed the service-learning aspect of my Dialogue. I was required to help out at a K-12 bilingual school in Sevilla and work with senior citizens in Barcelona. I have done service-learning for classes in Boston and I really enjoyed it, but I especially loved doing service-learning abroad. It was a great way to practice my Spanish, meet new people, and immerse myself in the culture. If I am able to go abroad again, I would love to either co-op with a non-profit organization or volunteer while I am studying abroad.
Another highlight of my experience was meeting a bunch of other Northeastern students who were also interested in learning Spanish and experiencing Spanish culture. Dialogue of Civilizations are a great way to meet people because the classes are usually relatively small. There were about 30 people on my Dialogue and only about 10 in my language class. I developed great friendships with most of the students on my Dialogue and I have maintained many of these relationships back in Boston. It makes campus feel a little bit smaller having 30 more friends this semester.
So, overall, I would definitely recommend undeclared students try studying abroad if it makes sense in their schedule. My experience was fun and brought me a lot of clarity about my interests and what I want to do with them. It was a life-changing experience – both academically and personally – and I am so grateful that Northeastern offers these types of opportunities.