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My Study Abroad experience with Abbey Road Programs in Barcelona – by Maggie B.
by Student, Maggie B. , New Jersey

From the first day on the trip, I was enchanted by the amazing city that is Barcelona, and I did as much as I would explore it. Right after we unpacked in our rooms, my roommate and I set out to explore the city and ended up in Las Ramblas, one of the most interesting areas in the city. That was our first, but most definitely not our last excursion out into the city. We made an effort to try and go out into the city every day. On top of our individual explorations, we often went out as a group. In the city, we went places like the Picasso Museum, Poble Espanyol (an outdoors museum), a Flamenco show, an amusement park called Tibidabo, the famous architect Gaudi’s buildings around the city and much more.

In addition to all of this, we went on a weekly day trip to another town. We visited a winery, the Dali museum, a monastery, lots of beaches, as well as many other places. For me, these were some of the highlights of the trip because our group got to see other places than just Barcelona because although it is a great city there are many other areas with lots to offer as well. All of this, as well as daily classes, kept us very busy the whole time we were in Spain. When I decided to go to Spain, my main goal was to improve my Spanish. I can proudly say that I achieved this goal. I am much more sure of myself when I speak Spanish now.

When I first arrived in Spain I found it difficult to have conversations in Spanish and I often stumbled. Through my daily Spanish classes and being forced to speak Spanish with anyone out of the group, I have been able to learn a lot of Spanish as well as gain confidence. It makes me ecstatic to be able to look back on my time in Spain and know that I accomplished the one thing that I wanted most to do while I was there. Making new friends and fully experiencing Spanish culture were also among my many goals when I set out on this adventure, however, when I arrived in Spain they became far more important to me that they originally had been.

When I met the rest of the group I knew immediately that I would make great friends on the trip. Everyone grew close very quickly and we all started to feel like one big family. This is when I realized how important it was to me to make friends on the trip because I knew that there were people who I would keep in touch with after it was all over. Also, once I reached Spain I realized how interesting Spanish culture is. This made me want to experience it as much as I could. I was able to do this by dining at traditional restaurants, going to a bullfight, seeing the works of famous Spanish artists and more.

None of this would have been possible without Abbey Road. I would never have been able to be a part of this amazing culture in the authentic way that I was if I hadn’t gone on this trip, nor would I have made the amazing friends that I did. I left Barcelona, a better Spanish speaker and more culturally aware, and I brought with me the names and numbers of many new friends and memories that will last me a lifetime. Going to Barcelona was one of the best decisions that I ever made and I’m so glad that I got to experience this trip. Abbey Road was so much more than a few cliché words. There is no way to fully describe the experience, except to say that I will remember it forever.

Your trip to Barcelona with Abbey Road was your first study abroad experience, what made you decide you wanted to study abroad? Why Barcelona?

I had been looking into it and talking about it with my family for about a year and we decided that I was old enough to go this year. Also, I’m talking Spanish and learning the language and thought it would be a great opportunity to improve my language skills. I was a bit nervous because I had never been away from home for so long and I was going to be in a different country than my family. I felt really reassured though that it was going to be a good experience.

I had a lot of information about the program from the staff and the website. It was more of an excited nervous and not a bad kind of nervous! You chose the residential program to interact with and meet new people;

Did the living situation help you accomplish this goal?

It was perfect! You had your own space, but you also have a roommate connected by the kitchen. It was really nice if you needed time to be by yourself and work on something or if you wanted to hang out with other kids. Also, I thought the apartment was a lot nicer than I expected. There was air conditioning and it was just really functional which I hadn’t quite expected. I thought the location was really good too. It was in walking distance of a lot the main areas. Or, there was a metro stop really close by if where you wanted to go wasn’t within walking distance. I felt completely safe during my stay. They had a security guard watching the door at all times and they had cameras set up as well.

Over the course of the program you took the Spanish Language daily and Digital Photography three times a week, did you enjoy the classes? How did they compare to your classes back home?

I loved the [Abbey Road experiential] classroom environment. We got to go out into the city and weren’t stuck in the classroom all day long. I also liked that classroom learning incorporated site seeing. The program didn’t study, study, study all day long. We got to go out into the city and see the different monuments and sites, which we learned a lot from. Spanish [class] was very different [from my class in school.]

It was much more conversational than I was used to which I liked because for me a lot of times I can write well in Spanish and get my ideas out on paper, but then when I have to talk it’s a lot harder. I also liked that we got to go out into the city and do surveys and talk with native speakers. I really enjoyed photography as well because we had specific assignments, but we had a lot of freedom to be creative. I had never taken a photography class before and I thought the class was a good starting point for me. I thought the professors were all really knowledgeable and helpful.

Did your Spanish improve during the program?

Yes. I definitely think it did. This year in Spanish class I’m already noticing that I’m more confident and am more able to speak up in class. I am surer of what I’m saying that I have been in previous years.

Are you glad you chose a program that incorporated daily learning over a purely travel program? What were the benefits for you?

Well, there is definitely a lot of learning involved in the program. We had one or two classes’ every day, which for me made it an academic program and not just a tourist program. I had heard of people who had gone on previous programs [through other companies] where they had just gone to site see and they weren’t there to specifically learn a new language or new skill like photography.

You get so much more out of a program like this! Also, outside the classroom, we learned so much about the different aspects of Spanish culture that also contribute to making it an academic program.

You have mentioned the great group dynamic in Barcelona and that you made a lot of new friends. How would you describe a “typical student” on the program?

I thought that most of the students were enthusiastic about going to different sites and seeing new things. I found that everyone on the program was really nice and easy to get along with and fun to hang out with. There were definitely more girls than boys on the trip. I thought there was a good mix. We all hung out together and there wasn’t a separation or anything like that. There wasn’t anyone that I felt like I couldn’t hang out with if I wanted to.

Do you think it’s important for teenagers your age to study abroad? How did this experience impact you?

I think it’s important to have cultural awareness and to be aware of other cultures and not just what you are used to. I think that studying abroad is the most effective way to gain that kind of awareness and to see how other people live and their values in life.

It’s just such a great way to learn about others and yourself. I had an unforgettable experience and I made amazing friends that I’m still in touch with and plan on keeping in touch with them for a long time. It was such an amazing experience and it changed me so much as a person; [it] made me more aware and improved my Spanish.

What advice would you give to a future Abbey Road student?

I would tell them to take every opportunity that they can. If they have the opportunity to do something cool and interesting to take it and just try to immerse yourself as much as possible. This program is so amazing and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.