Why did you decide to study abroad?
I decided to go abroad because I wanted to see the world and become fluent in Spanish. I had been thinking about studying abroad since my Freshman year of college, the only concern was money and location. I wanted to find a program that focused on my major, was in Spanish or a Spanish speaking country, and was within a good budget. Most programs can be paid for through tuition and fees, but the program I found (and loved) was a bit overpriced. I was, fortunately, able to receive enough scholarships to go! The biggest influence on my decision to go was that this is a once in a lifetime experience. I am the first in my immediate to go overseas. I am the only one in my family to fluently know another language. I was a little nervous to be away from everything I knew and loved for such a long period of time, but I knew the reward would be greater than I could imagine - and it was. I have lifelong friends, an extended family in Spain, and a better understanding of Spanish. I vlogged while I was overseas which has been rewarding in documenting my experience and showcasing my video recording and editing skills as a journalism student. Now as an alum of my program, I encourage so many students to go overseas and live their best semester! Check out my work at arletting.wordpress.com/arlette-abroad
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
scholarships paid my way out of the country! I received the Diversity Abroad Overseas Ambassador Scholarship, Gilman Internation Scholarship, a study abroad scholarship from my school (North Carolina A&T) and a few scholarships paid my way out of the country! I received the Diversity Abroad Overseas Ambassador Scholarship, Gilman Internation Scholarship, CIEE travel grant that covered my flights to and from Spain, a CIEE scholarship just for applying to the Gilman scholarship- regardless of it I got the Gilman Scholarship they gave me money for trying - a study abroad scholarship from my school (North Carolina A&T) and a few recurring scholarships that help cover my annual tuition.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
Before going overseas I wish I had known a little more about Seville and the surrounding area so that I could appreciate it more head-on rather than learning as I was going. I wish I had packed lighter but I couldn't help but packed my favorite clothes for Instagram pictures. For students going abroad, take this experience in! You will get homesick and miss your friends and family but this experience will never come again. It's temporary, but an exciting temporary. Don't be afraid to meet new people, dance like no one is watching, and eat like calories don't count (use that young metabolism!). Travel smart, don't let people think because you are American you're a target. If you want it, buy it but remember suitcase space. See if your parents or a friend can visit you overseas; mine couldn't but its a thought for some.
Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
I am an African American woman. I didn't experience any discrimination that made me feel unsafe or insecure but at one event, Carnival in Cadiz, there were people in blackface and that really angered and disappointed me. It was hard to enjoy the night seeing people in blackface wearing African or island styled clothing. Some had on leather jackets with guns. The following Monday I asked my teachers about the situation and they said most people know why it was considered inappropriate, but some still entertain the costume. In the moment that I saw the people in the blackface I wanted to lash out but I only gave them angered stares to let it connect what was wrong. I addressed this situation in a blog for students who may encounter situations that are uncomfortable or strange, especially discriminatory. Check it out at arletting.wordpress.com/arlette-abroad
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
My experience has benefitted me personally in that I am more fluent in Spanish and confident in my abilities to travel alone. I have never been overseas prior to this experience and most of my trips have been on land rather than on air. I have learned how to pack efficiently, not panic when things hit the fan, and how to make new meals. I have attended predominantly African American schools before this experience so at first, I was overwhelmed when I was the only student of color in my classes. I felt like I could not make a mistake and be the "dumb black girl," but after I let that concern fly away and realize that I am making this experience more diverse - I was able to learn from my classmates as much as they learned from me. On the academic side, it was fun to take classes that I won't usually take in America, overseas. I took a Flamenco class, a Social Justice class, a Video class, and a Spanish class. Each class was unique in its own way and helped developed me to be the more conscious and holistically knowledgeable student and young adult. All of my classes were taught in Spanish so I really improved my speech and confidence in the language. Through my insightful and fun video class I do know I want to continue working in media. I am interested in Journalism and news but also directed videos....maybe looking into documentaries.
Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience
Seville is my favorite Spanish city - See a soccer game participate in Feria and Semana Santa, take a lot of pictures, and keep in contact with your new friends from Spain and from America who traveled with you.