Growing up in Baltimore Maryland, I originally had an interest in Spanish just because my older brother was studying the language. Now, I find myself studying in a St. Lawrence program thousands of miles away from my family in Madrid and enjoying every minute of the language. At the beginning of my senior year in high school I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go to college, or what I wanted to study. I applied to St. Lawrence because of the advice of a friend, who happened to be a St. Lawrence alum. Although I had never visited the school I had a strange feeling upon receiving my acceptance letter that SLU would be a great fit for me, and just after one visit on campus I knew this would be true. After taking an array of classes first semester freshman year, one of them being Intermediate Spanish, I decided that taking foreign language was not only enjoyable for me but would also serve me well in the future.
The small classroom setting at St. Lawrence is definitely one of my favorite aspects of our learning environment. I have been able to create close relationships with all of my teachers here, especially those in the Spanish department. Another important aspect of SLU is the possibility for students to take a wide range of classes. Although my major is Spanish, I have been able to take classes in almost every department. This has helped shape my outlook on the world and influenced my decision to study abroad in Madrid. Students at SLU don’t just take classes to fulfill their major and minor requirements, rather they choose classes that seem interesting to them, with teachers that are truly dedicated to teaching. This creates an interesting academic atmosphere in each class because there are students with backgrounds in a variety of subjects.
So far this semester my study abroad experience has been a great mix of challenges and wonderful experiences. I decided to study abroad for just one semester because I am also a member of the Women’s Squash and Lacrosse teams at SLU. After choosing to major in Spanish sophomore year I knew that an immersion experience would be very valuable to the development of my communication skills in Spanish. In addition, I had never spent any significant time in another country and knew that this would broaden my understanding of the world. Not having done anything like this before, I had a hard time adjusting to living in Madrid; but now that I have been here for a full two months, I would not trade this experience for anything in the world. Firstly, my speaking skills have developed in a way that is nearly impossible in a classroom environment. Daily interactions with people in stores, my professors, and my host family have taught me a whole new range of vocabulary that I would have otherwise not been exposed to. Secondly, the experience of living with a host family has been invaluable. Not only does my time with my host family give me the opportunity to practice the language but it also gives me insight on the culture of Madrid. I am able to discuss current events, holidays, food and much more with my host family on a daily basis. Most importantly though, this experience has taught me a lot about myself. I have learned the importance of communication and patience. No day here has been easy but every minute I am testing my language skills and stepping out of my comfort zone to try new things. I owe a lot of my success here in Spain to all of my Spanish teachers at SLU, especially my advisor Marina Llorente and our programs director Ilia Casanova.
When I return to Canton I hope to have a better grasp of the language, and will continue to take as many Spanish classes as possible. In addition, I hope to continue tutoring high school Spanish students in Canton Central, which I became involved with during my spring semester in a class with Profesora Llorente. This experience gave me the opportunity to share my love for Spanish with students in Canton, and help them see the importance of leaning a second language. As I am still just in my junior year I am not sure what I want to do after college but know that I will find a way to incorporate Spanish into the profession that I choose.