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High school study abroad: Spanish immersion in the words of our students

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High school study abroad: Spanish immersion in the words of our students


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High school study abroad : Why go abroad and study a different language?

by Ariel Pearl-Butler, Abbey Road Student, Spain 2014

Hi I’m Ariel, and I am very excited to be sharing my travel insight and my upcoming trip to Cadiz, Spain with Abbey Road Programs! My love for traveling began at age 9, when my mother took me to Europe, and I saw the world in a completely different perspective. I am currently a sophomore in high school in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

I think the real reason I want to go on this trip so much is that I want to be able to experience what it’s like to leave all of my previous American customs and the English language behind, and immerse myself in a totally different culture. However, I don’t think I’d be able to spend an entire semester or year away from my family and friends. That is what’s so amazing about Abbey Road, and of all summer cultural exchange programs. They only last, well, a summer (or in my case three weeks).

I’ve never actually been anywhere outside the United States on my own. While going abroad with a program is completely different from going on your own, living with complete strangers is something that I think turns people off. You’re eating different food and most likely, the people you live with don’t speak your native language. This can be unnerving, but I think that it’s one of the most important parts of the trip.

You see, I have been studying the Spanish language since the fourth grade, a total of seven years this July. I can barely hold a conversation- this is partially due to the fact that I did not study it rigorously in the years before high school, but you would think I would have the courage to talk with a stranger without pre-rehearsing every word. I understand much conversation and can read the language with ease, but I can’t speak it for more than a couple minutes.

In class, we never really expose ourselves to native speakers or speak non-stop in Spanish without going back to English. This is why going abroad and especially living with a host family are very important. Not having access to English, forces you to only use Spanish, creating a situation where you become more and more comfortable with the language. I hope that by the end of the program I will be able to talk to people in Spanish with confidence and conviction.

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