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Name: Samantha Douglass (Soule)
Major: Education - Elementary/Middle Teaching (K-8)
Program: Teacher Assisting
Traveled Abroad Before: No
Q: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your study abroad experience?
A: My host family and all of the wonderful people that I met. My host mom and host sister were so great and without their kindness and interest in the program, I wouldn't have had the experience that I did. They truly made the trip worthwhile, even if I never set foot in the school, which is why I was there, I still would have taken away a lot.
Q: Why did you choose this destination?
A: I chose this destination because it was one of the few that allowed me to do my teacher assisting. I had also always wanted to go to Europe, and it just so happens that Spain is in Europe.
Q: What are some things that surprised you about the campus, the classes, the culture, customs or traditions?
A: I wasn't aware of how the schools were set up, or that they had two hours in the middle of the day off. Students also can be done with school at age 16, or continue to go onto higher education for two years which will then allow them to get into college. Without those extra two years, it makes it a little more difficult to go.
In the province of Ourense, which is where I stayed, they also have a holiday in which they celebrate the castaña, or the Chestnut. Way back when, before the Americans brought over corn and potatoes, the people of Ourense survived off of Chestnuts, so they celebrate them once a year at the beginning of November. Businesses are shut down, schools are closed, and the people gather together over open fires and roast chestnuts. It was an incredible experience.
Q: What are some things you would like students to know about studying abroad in this destination or the program provider you studied with?
A: This location has a lot of enticing history to be learned, and a lot of culture to experience. If you have the option to stay in an apartment with some fellow students, or stay with a host family, stay with the family. You will learn the language and the customs a lot faster, and more authentically. You also have to be 'flexible', which is the word we lived by on the this trip. Things aren't always going to go as planned, and things are going to change. It's okay. When you greet new people, they will most likely put their hands on your shoulder and kiss you on both cheeks. Cell phones are wonderful, and so is your computer, but you can be on those anytime, and you're only in this amazing country for a short time. You want to take the time to enjoy the sites and the stores and the people.
Q: What advice would you offer?
A: Walk into the schools with an open mind about how it will be set up.
If you don't know the language even a little bit, don't go. This isn't to dissuade you from going, but not knowing the language makes it difficult to communicate what you want and most importantly, what you need.
Know your landmarks! They will help you find your way when you spend too much time wandering the streets without a destination in mind and end up lost.
Be respectful of everyone. You are in their country, not the other way around.
Have fun. After all, YOTISO! (You Only Teach In Spain Once)
Q: What was your academic goal while studying abroad?
A: My goal was to study the culture and learn as much as I could about how they go about teaching their children. I wanted to know how their school system differed from ours, how their children learned in comparison to ours, and how a family's role in the school impacted the students. Throughout my time there, I realized that family is huge in Spain, and that's partly why there is a two hour time period in the day for lunch where families eat together instead of in a cafeteria. The arts are very important to them, which is why they are taught to each child, no just as an elective. The teachers there are professional, and yet very close with the students they teach. Hearing a Mr./Mrs. (Insert Last Name) was very rare; everyone was on a first name basis. Overall, I think I just about reached my goal. However, there is still so much more I want to learn, and I would need more than 6 weeks to learn it.
Question? Email Samantha!
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