What made you decide to look into study abroad this summer? What drew you to Abbey Road?
I knew I wanted to do something, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be allowed to study abroad. I spoke about it with my parents and after some thorough research, we thought that Abbey Road was perfect for me. They let me go and I’m so happy that I did it! There were five programs that we found, but we felt that Abbey Road would be the best. We didn’t want it to be the typical teen tour. I was going to be a senior in high school and I wanted to get more out of this experience than just what a teen tour would provide. It was really the safety aspect that made us choose Abbey Road. My parents were so happy about that. We also wanted it to be a cultural immersion experience.
Did the program meet your expectations?
Yes it definitely did. I was expecting a lot from the program, but it went above and beyond my expectations.
Did location matter? Why Barcelona?
Yes. I have always wanted to go to Barcelona. I love the fact that it’s a bigger city and there are a lot of beaches. I wanted to be somewhere where everyone spoke Spanish. The only downside of Barcelona was that they spoke Catalan, which is their version of Spanish, but everyone knows regular Spanish so it ended up working out just fine. I [also] chose the Barcelona program because I also wanted a pre-college experience over a homestay. For me personally, I was going to be more comfortable living in a residence with other students than living with a family I didn’t know.
What goals did you set for yourself? How did Abbey Road help you meet each of those goals?
By the end of the program I wanted to be able to have conversations completely Spanish, no Spanglish and I really did accomplish this. I was able to communicate with the locals and the counselors. The Spanish classes that I took were really helpful because they weren’t your typical Spanish classroom classes. The class took your learning into the real world of Spain. We were able to go out and apply what we were learning and I really appreciated that over a regular classroom setting. I also wanted to be able to manage myself as I would in college like budgeting my expenses. I wanted to be able to provide for myself.
How was the residential immersion aspect of the program?
The residence was perfect for what we were dealing with. The kitchen was really nice. There was even a bathroom in my room! I really appreciated having my own space and that’s another reason I chose this program. I’ve never lived in a dorm before, but when I showed my parents where I was living they told me it was the nicest dorm I would ever get to experience so I felt lucky. The location was good. It was close to two metro stations and there was a taxi station just down the road.
I really liked the food! I ended up having a really big appreciation for Spanish food by the end of the program. I’m not a seafood person and by the end of the program, I ended up loving seafood. I think the staff took us to the right places to have lunch and dinner. When we had to find food for ourselves we were able to very easily. I also like how we got to cook for ourselves. I learned how to cook authentic Spanish cuisine.
How would you describe the average student on the program?
The students on my program were all very intelligent. A lot of the [rising] seniors, we would talk about where we wanted to go to school and what we wanted to study. Everybody was really motivated and just above and beyond what you would expect for the average student. We all taught each other new things. We studied together and learned new study habits. Everyone was just really smart.
Which elective class did you take? Did you have a favorite class activity?
My elective was photography. I had purchased a big digital Nikon camera a few years ago and I didn’t really know how to use it. My photography instructor Sarah ended up having the same exact camera. She taught me how to take wonderful pictures and I learned a lot in that class. One of my favorite activities in class was when we went to the market in Las Ramblas. We had to buy certain foods off a list we had been given for lunch that day. We had to communicate with people at the market.
Have you or anyone else noticed an improvement in your Spanish?
My Spanish has definitely improved. I had been taking Spanish for so long and when I first got there I thought I knew a lot and that I would be able to communicate. However, I found it to be really difficult at first. To be able to find the right words in my head and be able to match them from English to Spanish, but by the end of the program, it became almost effortless. I knew what to say and how to say it and I was able to read the menus and speak to waiters and people in the metro station.
I was pretty much almost fluent in the language by the time I was done. There was a month in between the end of the program and the start of school and I didn’t really speak any Spanish. I thought it was going to be hard to go back to speaking Spanish, but as soon as I walked into my classroom and my teacher was only speaking in Spanish, I understood everything she was saying. All of my friends were so impressed and really it’s because of the four weeks I spent in Barcelona.
How did you like the staff? How do the instructors compare to those you’ve learned from in the past?
I loved all the staff on my program. They were all so nice and they liked to have fun with us and be safe. They taught us a lot and I really appreciated that. They were all wonderful. I think my instructors are obviously a little different than the instructors I have back home. They really took our learning outside the classroom and into the real world of Barcelona where I learned how much more compared to traditional teaching methods.
Do you think it’s important for students your age to study abroad?
Yes, I think it’s very important. I had never been to Europe before and it’s so different from the United States. I think it’s important to be educated about the rest of the world from the first-hand experience. It’s so important to know not only where you are from, but the rest of the world as well.
Has anything about this experience changed you?
I matured a lot when I was away for four weeks. I was by myself. I learned how to make new friends and in fact, I still talk to my friends from Barcelona every single day. I think that’s so neat that didn’t know anyone and I came home with twenty new really good friends. I grew up. I didn’t know anyone; I didn’t know how to use the currency. By the end of the program, I really learned a lot about how to manage for myself, meet new people and be more confident.
Did you have any major fears before the program?
I think a major fear was the language barrier. It was hard for me to speak at first. Also, the currency was a little scary. I have never been used to anything but the dollar bill.
Does group size matter? How would the experience be affected if the program was double the size?
The size  was a great thing about the Abbey Road program. I think it was manageable and we all really got to know each other. In a bigger group, I don’t think we would have been able to bond as well as we did.
Do you have a favorite memory from the trip?
Montserrat. It was beautiful. The whole environment, being able to see the older parts of Barcelona and the markets. They had cheeses, candies and cured meats with this beautiful mountain in the background. It was really at that point that I realized how lucky I was to be there and be a part of this program.
What advice would you give to someone going on the program in 2013?
I would tell them to be open-minded and not expect anything and just be surprised when you get there. If possible speak to some of the other kids going on the program beforehand. I didn’t know anyone and some of the students had talked beforehand and I think had I done that it would have made the first few days more comfortable.