Hannah Bennett studied abroad in Valencia, Spain for the Fall 2017-Spring 2018 year. In this Q&A Hannah talks about the difference a year made in her studies abroad.
Why did you choose to study abroad a year?
My dad actually encouraged me to do it at first, then I realized how great of an idea it was. I wanted to become fluent in Spanish and immerse myself in a different culture as much as I could.
Why do you believe studying abroad for a year is more beneficial than a single semester?
While studying abroad for a semester is rewarding, I noticed a lot of my semester classmates always wished they had more time abroad. It goes by all so quickly (even for me it did) so I am so grateful I chose to do a year. I got to see all the seasons, I stayed for Christmas and New Year’s. I got the full experience of feeling like a local. Staying a year, I had more time to enjoy myself and did not feel like I had to do something every moment of my day.
What were some of your fears about studying abroad for a year? How did you overcome them while abroad?
I was scared of being homesick or wanting to go home. Funny to say none of that really happened. Of course, during the holidays, I was a bit sad, but with how easy it is to communicate with anyone from across the globe, I still felt close to my family.
What did you learn about yourself during your time abroad?
That I am stronger and more independent than I ever thought I could be. I did a lot by myself and went through some stressful situations on my own. The more things I did alone, the more courage I had.
What was your favorite class and why?
As shocking as it is, my favorite class was my general Spanish and grammar class. I genuinely loved learning about a little bit of culture mixed with conversational Spanish. Learning Spanish and practicing with my teacher, I loved thinking about how much I improved from fall to spring semester.
What advice do you have for students debating whether to study abroad for a year?
I would say, if you can do it and work it out with your home university, I would do it in a heartbeat. If you don’t want to study in the same place for the whole year, you can do two different cities or countries. With a year, you never feel rushed or stressed about achieving everything you want to do. And it is a whole year focusing on you and your goals.
Did you participate in an internship/volunteer and if so how did that affect your time abroad?
I mainly started to involve myself in the community more in the second semester when I knew my way around the city better. I traveled throughout Valencia and taught English at some elementary schools. I also worked with some less fortunate kids in high school helping with school work and playing games. A few times during the weekend, I worked with an organization that cleaned up beaches. Doing these I still had plenty of time to travel/explore on weekends and manage my coursework. I wish I had started doing this sooner because I felt less like a tourist and it felt rewarding to give back to my study abroad home.
Did you live with a host family during your time abroad? If yes, how do you think that impacted your experience?
I lived with the same host family the entire year. I actually was only supposed to live with them for one semester, but I liked them so much I asked USAC if I could stay longer! It only took me a few months to feel like part of the family. Living with a family I learned more vocabulary, traditions, culture, and just about everything else than living in an apartment. I was very lucky to have a family who went above and beyond to help me with whatever I needed. A fine example was that they took me to the hospital and took care of me when I was sick. During situations like that, I felt really at home and comforted when I was really thousands of miles away.
Hannah studies Spanish at the University of Cincinnati. Read more alumni stories here.