Carolyn Steffen

Major: Kinesiology and Health
Class: Junior
Timeframe: Summer 2022

Overall Experience

My experience in Spain was nothing but amazing. The program was very well organized and provided the means to get the most out of an abroad experience that I could. Since Spain is small, I was able to see so many different places. The school that we attended was amazing, and the professors were even better. The public transportation system in Valencia and in Spain is very impressive, and it was very easy to get around to where I needed to go. I met so many new people and got to experience so many different things that I would not have been able to in the United States. I would go on this program a million times over again.

Learning experience

The most valuable learning experience I encountered was living with a host family. This aspect of the program allowed for more authentic and challenging experiences. My host family only spoke Spanish, so I was forced to learn the language very quickly. Also, home life in Spain is different than it is in America, so it was valuable to learn about the different cultural experiences that this offered. This included different foods and mealtimes, and I realized that there are a lot of things that we take for granted. From this experience, I learned to be able to adapt quickly and how to become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

Memorable experience

The most memorable experience I had, in general, would be traveling to new places with new friends. It was so rewarding to spend six weeks with a group of students who also wanted to have new experiences in a different country. I don't think that anybody realizes how easy it is to travel around in Europe and we took advantage of that. I made some of the best memories and saw some of the most beautiful places that I will never forget.

What did you not expect?

There are many cultural differences across different countries and living in Spain was no exception. The cultural aspect that came as one of the biggest surprises to me was that a college education and working for a big company where you make lots of money were not prioritized nearly as much as it is prioritized in the United States. In fact, many people do not attend college, and there is not as big of pressure to maintain the same job or even dedicate their whole lives to work, whereas, in the United States, I think as a society, a college education and maintaining a job is a very high priority. Experiencing this cultural aspect made me rethink how hard I am on myself for my performance in school and what I really want out of my future. I do prioritize education, and I am not planning on changing that; however, I think that I will start shifting my mindset to doing the best that I can, but there is way more to life than working every day and giving myself a break once in a while.

What advice would you give?

My short piece of advice would simply be to do it! I do not have the slightest regret in participating in this study abroad program, and I would do it a million times over again. I would also share to start researching study abroad opportunities early. There are so many of them that are offered, and to find the best one for you, it is valuable to start looking now. Keep in mind that the experience will be difficult and will challenge you in ways that you didn't think possible, but that the experience will always be worth it.

How has this experience impacted your life?

I will remember this experience forever. As someone who loves to travel, this was the perfect way to step out of your comfort zone and experience what the world has to offer. One of my personal goals was to be more outgoing and step out of my comfort zone, which is exactly what this experience provided. I also learned so much about the Spain culture through living with a host family and taking classes in Spain. I participated in this program with the main educational goal of finishing my Spanish minor. I accomplished this by taking two classes in this program that I enjoyed. I also wanted to challenge myself with the Spanish language and be more comfortable using it in casual conversation. I want to become a Physician Assistant in the future, and Spanish is a great tool to have when there are patients with a language barrier. Although I am not at a level to be able to speak fluently, I did progress in my Spanish speaking abilities in a way that I would not have been able to without participating in this program.

How did you learn about this experience?

I learned about this international opportunity through the mention of study abroad opportunities in Spain in my Spanish courses and some browsing on the ISUAbroad website.

International Connections