Julianna Adricula

Major: Kinesiology and Health
Class: Junior
Timeframe: Summer 2023
Type of Experience: Study

Overall Experience

I spent my summer of 2023 in Valencia, Spain while attending the University of Valencia for 6 weeks. I was able to take two classes while at the university that allowed me to complete my Spanish minor as well as complete a psychology credit I needed for my major. While in Spain, I lived with another Iowa State student with a host mom. Our host mom, Isabel, was an amazing cook and an even better storyteller. Not only did she cook us authentic Spanish meals, but she also told us stories from her past experiences in Valencia. Having her as our guide and our support system was an amazing experience and it created a bond I will never forget. Along with attending classes, my roommate and I were able to explore the city in our free time and travel around Europe. I was able to spend the majority of my afternoons at the beach, my weekends traveling to other countries, and my downtime partaking in the Spanish siesta! My summer in Spain was an unbelievable experience that I will always remember.

Learning experience

One of the most valuable learning experiences I had while in Valencia was when I fell sick with a sinus infection. One of my professors from Iowa State accompanied me to the emergency room, which is where you go when you need immediate attention. While there, I was asked questions about my symptoms like normal, but I was able to answer them myself in Spanish. Afterward, I was brought to a room dedicated for triage and had my vitals taken. I was then taken to a waiting room to wait for a doctor to be available to examine me. My professor came into the examination room, and the doctor who was seeing me luckily spoke English. Once he heard that I was a student from the United States, he encouraged me to speak as much Spanish with him as I could, and made it a very enjoyable experience for me. I was eventually given antibiotics, and my professor helped me find a pharmacy that I could use to receive the medication. This event was so important for me to see first hand because it really allowed me to see the differences between the American healthcare system versus the one they have in Spain. I was also able to speak up for myself in Spanish and to have multiple conversations about my health. Terms that are used in the medical field aren’t ones you hear everyday, so while it was an uncomfortable experience, it was incredibly impactful on my growth as a person and as a Spanish student.

Memorable experience

The most memorable experience I had from my trip to Spain was a weekend excursion I went on to Alicante, Spain. Four other students from Iowa State and I took a train two hours south to Alicante, a city in Spain that is also on the coast of the Mediterranean. The festival of El Dia de San Juan is a big celebration in Spain, especially for the cities on the coast. For Alicante, the feast day consists of parades, food, and large crowds coming together to celebrate. The five of us stayed for three days while we explored the city, watched parades that represented other Spanish-speaking countries, and ate amazing food. One of the traditions for this festival in Alicante is for the town to construct these huge wooden statues of characters. These statues are placed in the town center and are adored by the visitors of the city. They were almost as tall as the buildings around them and were made in incredible detail. At 10:00 the night of El Dia de San Juan, the city sets these statues on fire and thousands of people crowd the center to watch. After the burning, the city’s fire department sprays the crowds with water for fun as the crowds shout “Agua! Agua!” The five of us were able to watch the burning first hand and get absolutely drenched by the fire department. Afterward, the crowds of people will run to the beach which is right across the street and “rinse” off in the waves. Being a part of a tradition that has lived on for hundreds of years was unimaginable. Walking back to our hotel in soaking wet clothes after being sprayed by the fire department and running to the beach is something I will never forget. Laughing in the streets, being mesmerized by the incredible architecture, and being surrounded by so many people who were full of life is an experience of a lifetime. Nothing will ever compare to this night in Alicante, and I treasure these memories I’ve made.

What did you not expect?

On the trip, the one thing that surprised me the most was how open and loving the people of Spain were. Originally, I was timid to use my Spanish in any way and I was nervous to travel around an unknown city. However, the locals that I encountered were more than patient and understanding when it came to communication. I began to get more comfortable asking someone to repeat what they said or to speak slower, and eventually I gained more confidence. In Valencia, there was a coffee shop across the street from the university that was run by an older woman. My classmates and I routinely went over there for a cup of coffee and a bakery item, and she was more than patient with our use of Spanish. She would give us tips when it came to paying with cash and asking for items. These interactions were so important for my self-esteem and reassurance that I can communicate with people and that others aren’t going to judge me. Going forward, I want to have the same patience and compassion as so many had with me when I was trying to express myself or fit in a society that I wasn’t used to. In the medical field, I want to take the time and effort to listen to a patient and understand what they’re trying to say. Whether the patient has limited English proficiency or has a hard time speaking for themselves, I want to serve as a reliable resource for them to lean on when it comes to communication.

What advice would you give?

For other students who want to study abroad, I will always encourage them to do so. As cliche as it sounds, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Going to school, attending classes, and being this young is something that only happens right now, and I encourage everyone to seize the opportunity when they can. Even if the program is just for the summer or a week during break, any experience is a good experience. The amazing thing about the Valencia program is that the College of Human Sciences is very supportive. Not only do they advertise these opportunities, but they also have the resources and connections to help plan the trip. Whether it’s about credits, finances, or finding the time to go abroad, the College of Human Sciences is a great resource to turn to. Once you’re on the trip, it’s tempting to want to call back home or constantly text family members and friends. While I think it is important to let people back home know what you’re up to and where you’re at, I think disconnecting is also a great thing to do. Coming from a student who spent a lot of time calling and texting back home, I really wish I spent every second taking it all in. The trip goes by so fast, and sooner than you realize you’ll be on your flight back home to the United States. I think you should definitely be taking pictures and videos of what you’re doing, it’s also so important to be in the moment as much as you can. Live in the moment, put yourself out there, and do everything you can - you won’t regret any of it.

How has this experience impacted your life?

The experience of living abroad, even for a short time, was monumental in the improvement of my Spanish language skills as well as my understanding of others. I’m currently studying kinesiology with the tract to attend physician assistant school. In the future, when I’m working as a physician assistant, I want to be able to apply what I learned this past summer to my future patients. In Spain, I had to utilize as much language as I knew to be able to navigate around the city and communicate with the locals. Going to coffee shops, eating at restaurants, and buying souvenirs all included speaking in Spanish as best as I could. Expanding my vocabulary and applying grammar to all of my sentences grew my confidence to speak for myself in another language. With this, I want to be able to speak up for others too. Not only did my language skills grow, but my own individual characteristics did too. The amount of compassion and kindness the people of Spain showed me opened my mind and my heart to a different attitude of life. The flow of life is slower there, and people treasure quality time more than they do in the United States. This knowledge can help me when I’m helping patients in the medical field who hold a different culture than what is considered standard in the United States. Different cultures come with different values, and what one person values might not be the same for another person. I want to be able to understand and support my future patients, and others outside of the medical field, and I believe that this experience has helped me find a perspective that can aid me with this.

How did you learn about this experience?

I first heard about the Valencia program through my Span 303A professor, Julia Dominguez. She used to run the program in past years, and when I was her student she spoke so positively about the experience. After some debate, I realized that studying abroad would be incredibly beneficial to improve my language skills as well as open my horizons to another culture.

International Connections