Studying Abroad My Freshman Summer -- in Spain!
Freshman summer. What a time! Your freshman summer is the first term in your D-Plan that YOU control. You could continue to be “on” in Hanover taking classes. You could take an “off” term and intern in DC or work for a startup in San Francisco. Or, you could study abroad for the first time!
Study abroad was one of the main reasons why I loved Dartmouth as a prospective student. It was something I knew I wanted to take advantage of during my time here. So, when it came time to figure out what I wanted to do freshman summer, I looked into my options to study abroad.
For anyone new to Dartmouth study abroad, we have 3 main types of programs: the LSA, the LSA+, and the FSP. LSA stands for Language Study Abroad; FSP stands for Foreign Study Program. LSAs have a language and cultural immersion focus while FSPs are run through certain academic departments and focus on that department’s coursework. The LSA+ is very similar to the LSA except you have to take more language courses before going. So, your level of fluency in the language is higher before the program starts.
I found a program that sounded incredible: the LSA+ to Santander, Spain. This term changed my life. It’ll be hard to summarize in one blog post all of the incredible details, but I’ll try my best! Here are the 10 reasons why this program rocks:
- No. 1
Living with a host family is a great way to get to know the city/country as the locals experience it. My host mom and dad cooked all of our meals, from homemade gazpacho to entire fish--head, bones, and all. They took me to local festivals on holidays and introduced me to their friends over tapas and wine! It was also a great way to practice my conversational Spanish. My host siblings, Claudio (5) and Teresa (7), were amazing conversation partners! It was so nice to have a Spanish family that cared about me and really made their house feel like home.
- No. 2
Small group of Dartmouth students
With all Dartmouth study abroads, you have a little slice of the Hanover community traveling and studying with you. Our group was especially small (only 10 students!) and so we got really close even though none of us really knew each other before the program. Now, we have reunions where we get together and practice our Spanish while listening to our favorite Spanish songs!
- No. 3
All Dartmouth study abroads are led by Dartmouth professors, which is pretty cool! It means that you maintain the same level of academic rigor during your time abroad. But, it also means that you have a support system and a mentor that you build a really close relationship with. My professor, Jose del Pino, is actually married to another Dartmouth Spanish professor, so we were especially lucky! We got to hang out with them and their two sons, eating churros y chocolate and practicing our selfie-stick skills!
- No. 4
All Spanish Everything
So, up to this point, I had only ever taken one Spanish class at a time (in high school and at Dartmouth). That means you speak in Spanish for an hour and then go about the rest of your classes and interactions in English. This was the first time that I took literature, grammar, writing, art history, and culture courses all in Spanish at the same time. It was tough at first, but it improved my Spanish SO much.
- No. 5
Not only did we get to practice our language skills in and out of the classroom, but we also got to see what we were studying, up close and personal. On Fridays, instead of going to class, we took field trips around Spain. We would study the architecture of a cathedral along the pilgrimage route of Santiago de la Compestela and then we would go visit the same cathedral! We looked at paintings by Velázquez and Picasso on slides and then we went to El Prado and La Reina Sofia museums in Madrid. We studied Gaudí's modernismo and then took a trip to El Capricho in Comillas. We traveled to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim. As an art history major, these trips blew me away!
- No. 6
Maybe you're familiar with the international Bank of Santander, or you maybe you haven't heard of Santander before now. But, Santander is this BEAUTIFUL little coastal city in Northern Spain -- I could see the beach from my house. It was 75 degrees and sunny almost everyday. It was a small enough city that we really got to know the places and the people around us. We felt like temporary residents, not tourists, which made a huge difference to me!
- No. 7
One of our weekly excursions during the term was to Madrid, where we spent the whole weekend touring historical sites, visiting museums, and watching flamenco. Then, we had a week off from classes to travel around the south of Spain! We got to know the whole country and see how cultural values and cuisine shifted from the north to the south. We got to see the beautiful Alhambra Palace of Granada, the iconic Mezquita-Catedral of Córdoba, and the ancient city of Toledo.
- No. 8
The Spanish lifestyle spoke to me on a deep level. Lunch is the largest meal of the day and usually happens around 2pm. Indulging in paella and wine followed by a daily nap? That the whole city takes together? Count me in! Of course, some days, we had to work hard for our lunch! Like when we hiked the Picos de Europa as a weekly excursion.
- No. 9
Financial aid and course credits transfer as if you were taking classes on campus! You don’t have to request/petition/apply for transfer credits, you just pay the same amount as you would for any other Dartmouth term. The only difference was that part of that tuition went toward paying for our excursions, which ranged from learning how to make traditional Spanish dishes like tortilla de patata and paella, to trying our hand at pre-modern hunting!
- No. 10
Set-Up for Success
When I came back to campus, I felt so prepared to dive into upper level Spanish courses. My first term after Santander, I took Spanish 70, where we read and analyzed all 1,000-odd pages of Don Quijote de la Mancha, with two of my classmates from Spain! In addition to completing the Spanish minor, I was able to go back on another LSA, this time as the Director's Assistant. I got to live in Spain for another term and become part of another Spanish family!