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My study abroad experience in Salamanca, Spain during the fall of 2013 and South America during the spring of 2014 is one that I am undertaking in order to grow personally, culturally, and academically. I have spent countless hours planning for this semester, and I believe that it will be extremely enriching across all areas of my being. The things I will learn, places I will see, and most importantly people that I will meet will add a much-needed fresh perspective to the way I see the world and approach my daily life.
The improvement of my Spanish skills is one of the primary motivations for this year abroad, and I hope to gain complete academic, grammatical, and conversational fluency during my time in Spain and South America. At the University of Salamanca, I will begin the semester with an intensive Spanish language course. This will allow me to brush off the linguistic rust I have accumulated having not taken Spanish in school since my junior year of high school. In addition to taking classes at the university alongside local students, I will be living with a host family that will provide me with the ability to fully acculturate myself to Spanish society. My host family experience will also ensure that I am speaking Spanish at all times, and the ability to practice both formal and informal modes of speaking will aid me in my pursuit of fluency. Finally, I will complete a part-time internship that will further my language abilities. The placement is yet to be determined, but for a few days a week I will have the opportunity to meet coworkers and work on my Spanish even more. During the spring, I expect have a similar experience taking classes at a local university in Spanish and living with a host family. By completely surrounding myself with Spanish, I hope to cement myself as a valid, fluent Spanish speaker.
Culturally, I hope to forge lasting memories with the people I meet during my time abroad, ranging from fellow American students to locals of all kinds, including students, professors, host family members, and many others to be determined in the future. An internship working with locals will enable me to further immerse myself in Spanish culture and pursue positive change in the community. Taking classes with Spanish and international students will broaden my manners of seeing the world, and I expect to make countless friends from across Europe. The University of Salamanca enrolls over 30,000 students annually, and is known for its large percentage of international students from many countries, not just the United States. This multicultural explosion will surely produce a vibrant and dynamic environment in which to study. I am eagerly awaiting to live with a host family in Salamanca as well, because the best way to learn about a culture is to experience it firsthand. I will surely gain an invaluable local perspective about Spanish life and customs as well as hopefully establish lasting relationships with the members of my host family. In South America, I expect to gain a similar immersion into local culture and life.
Academically, I am planning on taking courses relating to my major interests. I am very interested in political issues of the European Union and Latin America, including international political economy, immigration, and domestic political management. In addition, I am also extremely intrigued by Spanish history since the rule of Franco, and European history as a whole. In South America, there are countless opportunities to study the history and consequences of overbearing political regimes and systems. Finally, I would like to take arts courses of some kind, whether in art history, film, music, or literature. Following the initial two-week intensive language course in Salamanca, my semester will consist of four courses composed of the above areas. I am hoping to take three classes of international affairs and history, and one arts class to round out my academic load. Similarly, my semester in South America will consist of a Spanish language class with four other classes relating to politics, history, and the arts. I believe the educational experience will be extremely enriching, as I will be exposed to a different mode of learning that is extremely traditional. In addition, the varied perspectives of my classmates will be a great way to learn about the diverse, international issues I will be studying. I am also hopeful of possibly gleaning some inspiration for a possible thesis topic through my academic experiences in Salamanca and South America, potentially concerning European and/or Latin American political and historical issues. In short, this year will be a great way for me to explore areas of extreme interest.
Finally, the changes of scenery that Spain and South America provide are vital opportunities for me to leave my beloved Boulder and be in unbelievable locations. My personal theme for the year is one of exploration and adventure, and I will apply this to all pertinent levels of analysis. Any time there is an opportunity to go on an extra excursion or meet another person, I will rise to the occasion. I plan on becoming intimately connected to the city of Salamanca, relatively similar in size to Boulder, by walking, running, and biking around the ancient buildings that comprise a city that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Excursions taken with fellow program-mates will take me around northern and central Spain and some of Portugal. In addition, I plan on spending countless weekends travelling around the rest of Spain as well as potentially to other locations in Europe. I have been working and saving for the past few years, and I plan to judiciously apportion personal funds to outside travel. Seeing Spain and Europe, locations with storied history, will be enriching on many levels. Similarly, I planning on becoming locally versed with my home for the spring in South America, accompanied by regional travel throughout the semester.
A year in Salamanca, Spain and in South America will provide me with a wonderful, memorable experience that will serve as a priceless portion of my education at the University of Colorado. The development that I will experience will be well worth the investments of time and money that accompany a year abroad. I cannot see a better way for me to spend my junior year, and believe that the enrichment I will receive cannot be measured in finite amounts