The Great Abroad

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Studying abroad is a rite of passage at Middlebury. After slogging through grammar classes when you really want to be trekking the mountains of Peru, after sitting at language tables when you want to be sitting cross-legged at an Indian dinner, after screening German films about Berlin nightlife for class and getting sucked into them—finally you can experience it all in person!

Of course all of the lead-ups are necessary to reach a sufficient level of the target language, and all of our language immersion models are mini-abroad experiences, but nothing compares to the real thing.

I have dreamed of studying abroad in Spain since I lived there. To clarify—I lived in the south of Spain as a little girl but always watched wistfully as my Spanish friends went off to their classes while I went to international school. I always knew that I wanted to be one of those bespectacled  long-haired, important-looking college students that I saw every time we drove into Seville, and that I too wanted to have that beautiful language passing from my lips.

Finally after two years of college I got that chance, opting for a Middlebury program in Madrid. Knowing that the Spanish university system is not as rigorous as I am used to at Middlebury, I made this tough decision because I knew that all of the teachers hired by the Middlebury program would be challenging, leaders in their academic field, and vetted by the school. And they were. It is difficult trade-off for many students, who want to meet host students, but who want a serious semester abroad with easily transferable credits. I chose to go through a program that I knew was going to be equivalent to my political science track at Middlebury, and figure out a way to join the community in another way.

I did manage that, by volunteering for a one of the madrileño gay rights organizations, and I spent a good chunk of my free time organizing a queer film festival, doing everything from handing out flyers in the gay-friendly district of Chueca to deciding between indie short films to taking tickets at the door. This is my number one recommendation to all prospective and current students who are thinking of studying outside of the United States—find something niche, something that you’re passionate about and find a similar organization to join which abroad (could be a rugby team, a cooking club, or a theatre troop), just anything to get you a secure spot in the community.

To condense a semester abroad into a single blog post is impossible. I traveled all over the country, seeing everything from Goya’s paintings in the Prado museum of Madrid to the beaches of San Sebastian to a flamenco performance in Seville to Gaudi’s extravaganzas in Barcelona. I missed my friends and my Midd community and there were some uncomforts of settling into a brand-new apartment and new transportation system, but I found my groove after not too long and had both a satisfying academic and personal experience. I can’t emphasize enough how much prospective students should already be making plans for their dream semester or year abroad—you have the whole world open to you!

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