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My Summer Abroad experience with Abbey Road in Barcelona – by Isabel H.
by Student, Isabel H. , New York

What were your main reasons for wanting to go abroad this summer? What were you looking for?

This was my first time participating in a study abroad program. I had heard about teen tours before, but my mom brought up the study abroad program with Abbey Road to help improve my Spanish. I was going to be taking AP and I wanted to be better prepared for the AP test at the end of the year. I had also never been to Spain before and I wanted to see what it was like. I also wanted the opportunity to meet other students. Living in the residence in Barcelona was similar to college life and I wanted to be able to experience that and get a feel for what college might be like. I wanted to stay with other students and I had heard Barcelona was a great city.

Did you set any specific goals for yourself prior to your trip to Barcelona?

 I had very few goals for myself before the trip. My main goal was to improve my Spanish since I am taking an AP course this school year. I also wanted to experience the culture, since I had never been to Barcelona before.

How was it to travel without knowing anyone beforehand?

 I was actually really nervous because I’m a bit shy when I first meet people. I was scared that other students on the program would already know each other before the trip. In reality, a lot of people didn’t know anyone beforehand and we all got really close as the program went on. Most of the students were from the US, but some were from other countries like India and Iceland. I really liked the small group size because we all really got to know each other and could just hang out as a group. I’m actually going to see a few people from the Barcelona program in December!

How did you like the staff?

 I thought the teachers were great! They really encouraged us to speak more Spanish and helped us to understand more. My intermediate teacher didn’t speak any English at all so at first, it was hard communicating with her, but eventually, it became easier and my Spanish came more naturally. Our counselors were all younger and relatable and really easy to talk to. I thought that they all really worked well together.

Did your Spanish improve during the program? Have you or anyone else noticed a difference since you’ve been back?

Yes definitely. My Spanish teacher has noticed an improvement in my Spanish. After I came back home, I was standing in line at the store and the woman in front of me was holding a baby and speaking in Spanish and we ended up having a conversation completely in Spanish. I was able to understand her and actually hold a conversation.

Did you know what “experiential learning” was prior to your trip to Barcelona? How would you describe it?

I had an idea, but I had never experienced it until Abbey Road. I would describe it as not just sitting in a classroom repeating verbs or vocabulary over and over. You don’t stay in a classroom. You actually get out of the classroom and talk to local people and learn Spanish through living in the city and interacting with native Spanish speakers.

Can you describe the residential life experience?

 Living in a residence was very different from home. When I’m home I don’t always have to take out the trash or wash the dishes, but once you’re living in the residence, you have to cook for yourself, buy your own groceries, take out the trash, do your own laundry. You have to be very independent. I really liked that aspect. Every week the counselors gave us money for one trip to the grocery store. You would go to the store with the student that you shared your kitchen with. Together you would buy what food you wanted for the week. We did cooking every other night, which was really fun. Learning to cook new recipes and trying new foods was a completely new experience. My favorite recipe was tortilla, which is an egg, and potato dish that can be used for tapas or as a whole dish.

Has anything changed about you since you’ve been back?

I’ve been told I have become more adventurous and more spontaneous.

 How valuable was your free time? Were you satisfied with the amount?

I loved the free time. At home, I can’t drive and I live far from town and my friend’s house so my parents usually have to drive me. I really liked how I could walk anywhere in Barcelona and since all the students were good friends, we were always hanging out together.

Did you like the length of the program?

 When I was looking at Abbey Road, four weeks seemed like a long time and when I first got there I was really nervous. It just seemed like a really long time to be living with all these people I didn’t know, but by the end, I really wish the program had been longer!

Overall, did the program live up to your expectations?

Yes, it did. I am definitely going to try and go on another study abroad trip during my next summer break or maybe my summer before college. I would definitely go to Spain again.

What advice would you give to someone going on this program in 2013? I would tell them to be open with new things and a little bit adventurous. To be friendly with everyone and try all these new things and really try to experience the culture, it will only enhance your experience.