They kept a good balance between being fun people to hang out with and being authority figures. They related to each of the students in the group while making sure we were all safe and doing what we were meant to be doing. The staff also did a nice job making sure we got the most out of our Spanish classes. The teachers were all exceptionally knowledgeable and willing to help, and they structured their classes so that our learning experience was enhanced through both a traditional classroom setting as well as opportunities to venture outside to practice our Spanish with the locals.
For instance, we would be given a list of idiomatic expressions in Spanish and then go out in the street and ask the locals to explain the meanings to us. Or we would learn about the design of a traditional cathedral and then walk 50 feet outside to take a tour of an actual cathedral. Having so many resources at our disposal in Cadiz certainly made my learning experience one-of-a-kind and very memorable. Abbey Road provided us with plenty of afternoon and evening activities to allow us to bond as a group and take advantage of everything Cadiz has to offer. Each Sunday as a group went to the beach to relax, hang out, and just enjoy the day.
There was also the option of going to the beach at night to play fútbol and listen to some of the staff and students play the guitar. Students could also go to the movies, free open-air concerts, and Spanish workshops, just to name a few of the many activities we were offered. My personal favorite was the TeteríaÁrabe (tetería meaning “tea room”), which was unlike any other place I’ve ever been. Not only did it have the most amazing tea and outstanding crepes, but also the atmosphere of the place was so calming and comforting. It was a great place to relax at night with some friends and enjoy a nice pot of Pakistani tea. Every Saturday morning the group boarded a bus to go on a weekend excursion.
The places we went were usually no more than an hour away and always well worth the bus ride over. We visited Conil and Arcos de la Frontera, which were both white cities, Ronda, a beautiful city in the hills, Gibraltar, which was a breath of fresh air for us English-speakers, and Los Toruños, a national park with a beach, a bike path, and a river for kayaking. Our weekend excursions were a nice way to get a taste of other surrounding Spanish towns and to spend time as a group. One of the most important things to me when I was considering summer study abroad programs was that I would be living with a homestay family.
I believed that a homestay program would be the most rewarding option as far as my Spanish conversational skills go. What I was not necessarily expecting, however, was to form such a strong bond with complete strangers over the course of a month. I still obviously practiced and learned a lot of Spanish, but much more importantly I made lasting connections, and that is what made my time spent in Spain so incredibly special. While I may over time forget some of the Spanish I learned, I will never forget the people I met and the time we spent together in a place that, in four short weeks, became my home.
Initially you were considering a study abroad/volunteering program in Latin America, what made you decide to travel to Spain with Abbey Road instead? Initially I looked at the program [program name removed] because this was about Volunteering in Latin America. But I was attracted to Abbey Road’s program in Cadiz because of its safety and security. I [wanted] a program where I could increase my ability to speak Spanish and understand the Spanish family life. I was also looking forward to making new friends and meeting new people on the program.
Who would you say is the “typical” teenager on this program? I think the typical teenager that traveled on this program is dedicated and hard working. Everyone seemed to be focused in class even when there were outside distractions. We all wanted to have fun after class. Everyone was very easy to get along with! What surprised you the most about your new friends? I was so surprised how quickly we became very good friends. Since I never went to sleep away camp, I was worried about that, but by the end of the program it was so hard to say goodbye. I tried my best not to cry at JFK [airport].
You mentioned that your main goal was to improve your Spanish. How did the daily Spanish class help you improve? The first part of the morning Spanish class was comparable to my Spanish class in Tucson. The second half of the class, however, was really unique. We would go outside and see the sights of what we had just learned about in class and we would speak to the locals. We really took advantage of being in the city. [In the afternoons] I had Spanish Conversation and Culture where I learned so much about Cadiz’s traditions. I learned about the Latin Church and we visited the cathedral. The class was conducted all in Spanish. We would ask locals questions.
Even if I used strange vocabulary words in my conversations with the locals, they were always patient and willing to help. Did anything change significantly about you during the month in Cadiz? Yes, I changed. I have a greater appreciation for the Spanish culture and my own culture. I have more confidence in myself as a learner and I am more adventurous now than I ever thought possible. I feel I can travel with no problem now. In my Spanish Class at school, my teacher has noticed that I speak Spanish with more confidence and I have retained the accent from Cadiz. I am going to college next year and my main interests are Spanish, other languages and Biology. I definitely want to study for a semester abroad and that is due to my month in Cadiz.
Tell me something you know now after doing this program, about the Spanish Culture, City of Cadiz or people of Cadiz that the typical traveler would not know. I now know about the people of Cadiz and their accent. They take out the “S” altogether and they don’t pronounce the letter “D”. Like if you say the word: helado (ice cream), they will pronounce it: helaō. Another thing is that everything in Cadiz starts so late. Dinner is late and curfew is at a later time. Even little kids run around the city at midnight!