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Study Abroad Interviews

Courtney Hill

Age: 27 (was 21)

Degrees: Elementary Education & Secondary Spanish

Prior Language Knowledge: 2 years in high school and 2 years at MSUB

Where did you go? Salamanca, Spain

When did you go? December 2002 - June 2003

Have you studied abroad before?
No. Mrs. Hill did briefly visit Australia with Northwest Basketball Camp for two weeks and she traveled to Mexico for a month with Oral Roberts University.

Why did you do study abroad?
"I went abroad for two reasons: 1) because I loved traveling and seeing the world; and 2) because if my Spanish was going to be good or if I ever wanted to teach it, I knew I had to immerse myself in the culture and be somewhere. Otherwise, I would have had only my "American Spanish" which was not phenomenal."

Would you do it again?
Mrs. Hill felt at times that that she was inundated by the Spanish culture. It was "full-time" Spanish for her. Mrs. Hill grew to love the complete immersion.

What was your favorite part?
"My favorite part was also the hardest part." For Mrs. Hill to be completely surrounded by Spanish and "in" their culture was what she enjoyed the most. She also enjoyed the weekend excursions around Spain that the school arranged for the internationals.; "They were a lot of fun. It really opened up my eyes to another culture and world." Mrs. Hill also told me how she enjoyed the Siestas. "It was a real fun part--I loved it! Work isn't as important there. It is more important to take a break in the middle of the day and to be with the family. Also, the evenings are all about being with the family, walking and the night life. At 10:00/10:30 everyone is in the streets. They are out eating tapas, sipping a glass of wine or just enjoying everyone's company."

What was the easiest aspect of your study abroad?
"There was not a lot that was easy; it was a very challenging time for me. Although having Christal there, another MSUB student, was really beneficial. I was able to relate to her in English and we became friends."

Courtney Hill at her weddingWhat was the hardest challenge you faced?
"Definitely being submersed into the Spanish culture, and the shock of the speed and fluency of the native speakers." Mrs. Hill told me how it was difficult "just trying to demonstrate your personality when you can't communicate. "It's so hard. I experienced extreme frustration, especially at the beginning when I wanted to learn so bad, and I knew I was missing 90% of what was going on."

How has this study abroad affected your life now?
"It has bettered my Spanish and broadened my worldview. I now have a lot of perspective about how other people live--it's not just the 'American Way.' I also consider it another battle that I have conquered." Additionally, Mrs. Hill told me about how her Spanish education has been integrated into her classroom. "I teach my elementary students Spanish in mini-classes but so much of it is incorporated into the everyday activity. For example, my salutations each day are in Spanish. Also, my students are divided into pods and their group has a color name which is how they are summoned, in Spanish. At the end of the year the students tell me that incorporation of the language was their favorite part, and they tell me that it is the reason they wanted to be in my class."

What advice/words of wisdom would you offer students interested in studying abroad?
"Definitely go! It will grow you so much in so many ways. It will further your language and broaden your horizons. Be patient, though, immersion takes awhile to get used to. Also, do as much as you can. Instead of being in the book so much or so long, go meet the people there. I wish I would have been around more Spaniards. When you do this, then you really get the meat of the experience. Also, a host family is a must."

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