Studying Abroad in Spain

The start of my journey to travel abroad through JCC

Have you ever thought of going to a different country to learn about a new culture? I dreamed of the idea my entire life and it finally came true when I got into college. As a student at Jamestown Community College, I had the opportunity to travel abroad where I could meet new people and expand my view of the world.

I am an eighteen year old college student who didn’t think it was possible to get a job on another continent and just move away for three months. I had worked incredibly hard in school in order to graduate a year early and in the top 10 of my class. The plan was always to find another high school with which I could do the traditional exchange after I finished and got my diploma. However, a local college ad caught my eye. After speaking with the program leadership, I knew all the plans I had made were being tossed and I was changing my plans for the next year. I went to college on the Jamestown campus for my first semester and planned with help to spend my spring in Spain.

Working with United Cultures in Valladolid, Spain

After I was accepted, I began working out all of the details for this new adventure. I had to be very specific when planning to ensure I met all of the guidelines, such as being in Spain for less than ninety days. Eventually we booked my flights and it was all so much more real. The program brought me to a small town named Valladolid in Spain.

Now I spend my time here working with United Cultures in a small academy that has around 100 people of all ages and backgrounds who come to learn. I also take classes online to ensure I stay on track with the college back home. The program is a six credit internship in which I teach English and share about United States culture. I work in a small school full of children and adults from all different places who are eager to improve their English. I have been fortunate to be fully immersed in Spanish culture and have learned so much more than I could ever have imagined.

Sydney teaching at the academy one day during a craft project

Meeting my host family and adjusting to life in Spain

In the weeks leading up to my departure, I found myself counting down the days. I was incredibly excited and anxious to begin the journey and experience a new culture. I found out who I would be staying with and instantly was able to get in contact with them, which brought me some ease. I knew going into this experience that my Spanish level was rough for planning on living in Spain for three months. My host family assured me they would help in any way possible and we would work through all of the language barriers.

I knew this new group of people would be very dear to my heart and I stand by that statement. After living with them for half of the time I will be spending in Spain I find myself missing them when I leave for just a couple of days. I now have a second set of parents and two younger sisters who fill my day with laughter, smiles, love, and understanding.

In the beginning of my internship and time abroad I found myself incredibly homesick. I did not expect to miss the things from home nearly as much as I did. From the grocery store, to being able to drive myself around in a car it was very odd the things I craved. After a small amount of time (a couple of days) I found myself adjusting. My host family did everything they could to ensure I felt welcome. They brought me in as one of their own to ensure I was getting a full experience, which is what I have had.

From learning how to travel in public transportation to going to castles just to explore on the weekends I am always surprised by how much there is at my fingertips. I came to this city of 510,000 people from an area that has about 31,000 people. It was a drastic change and I knew it would be. I was floored when I learned how safe it was even though it was astronomically larger than home.. I would never have imagined walking alone or being out at night without some type of safeguard, but it is more than acceptable and a part of life here.

Sydney with her host mom and one of her sisters and her friend at a local museum

Possibilities abroad

At the moment, I have nearly forty days left. In the beginning, I had eighty-eight days to soak up every minute I could of the culture and lifestyle that is Spain. While I have been here I have also been fortunate enough to travel to other European nations. I was in London when Brexit was made official, I have witnessed a large motorcycle ride that included 35,000 cyclists making up a parade, and I have more adventures ahead. This weekend we are celebrating Carnival and I am heading to the southeastern coast to see a friend who lived with me in the States. We always talked and joked about me visiting but now we are watching it become real before our eyes. The possibilities are truly endless.

I’ve learned so much on this adventure

Not only have I been able to visit amazing places, but I have learned so much in the meantime. My listening skills have grown so much. I can understand nearly all of what my host family is saying even when it is just my sisters arguing with each other. I noticed a huge improvement when working with my Spanish activities. When completing listening games, I used to have to play a time or two extra than I would have to if I got them all correct and now I am often able to complete them by playing them the  minimum number of times.

There are still times I miss my animals and family, but I have a new family here and new friends. The area is home to a university where many Americans have the opportunity to come study and live. While the Spanish-speakers far out number the English-speakers, I always laugh at how we all react to each other by gasping and being excited to speak fluent and fast paced English. I have made some great friends in the fellow Americans I was able to meet here. I also was fortunate enough to not be the only intern from my college, so I have a person who really understands what I am thinking.

All in all, this experience has been more than I ever imagined. At least once a week I find myself exclaiming that I have something new to tell my family and friends when I go back to the States. The adventures and memories are without a doubt going to last me a lifetime. Plus, I feel as though I am really growing as a person. Living in a new culture with new  practices has made me re look at some of the things I believed to be perfectly normal. My understanding of people has grown and I am better at accepting differences as a result of my stay here in Valladolid. I am more than excited to see what the rest of my time here has to hold.

(Note: This blog post was written prior to my early departure from Spain due to the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus.)

About this post’s author:

Hello, I’m Sydney Gleason, a freshman at Jamestown Community College. I am in the Music Industry program and love to travel. In the future I hope to see more of the world and help produce music, which is so close to my heart.

About the author

Global Learning

See Jamestown Community College through the eyes of international students, and the world through the eyes of students studying abroad! Global Learning at JCC brings JCC and the world together.