Ever since I can remember, I had a desire to explore the world. Once I started high school and started looking at different majors and colleges I was interested in, I knew that I wanted my future job to involve traveling and my future college to offer the option to study abroad. After looking at a plethora of colleges, I ended up choosing Stanislaus in order to save up money for my study abroad adventure by living at home and commuting to school.
When I first attended an information session my first semester at Stan, I was set on going to London, England with USAC for a semester, but after researching other program options and talking to other students at Stanislaus who studied abroad, I decided on Valencia, Spain, a newer program located on Spain’s Mediterranean coast and it was the best decision I could have made.
Studying abroad for the spring 2018 semester was the best four and a half months of my life and I wish I could have stayed longer. I met many amazing friends, had the support of the wonderful on-site USAC staff, received the going away to college experience, and visited countries I had only ever dreamt about.
I even experienced a few of Spain’s holidays including their biggest one: Las Fallas, which consisted of a month-long celebration in March to commemorate St. Joseph and the coming of spring. There were fireworks set off every day at 2 pm called masculetas which were made for their sound rather than sight, a ton of people who were visiting from all over the world, and lots of parties and social events being held. The actual festival was a week-long event where the daily masculetas continued, but then, for five nights in a row, brilliant night-time firework displays were held; they were spectacular and surpassed even Disneyland’s fireworks. For the finale of Las Fallas, there were 700, 20-foot papier-mâché statues called ninots or fallas that were set ablaze in different intersections all around the city. It was a spectacular sight to see especially when it began raining embers on all of us gaping in awe.
My life in Valencia consisted of living in an apartment near the city center, riding the bus to school every day, walking to the beach when the weather was nice, exploring my new-found home and the people who inhabit it, and visiting other countries with my fellow USAC friends. In my apartment, I lived with seven girl roommates who were from all over the United States and even two who were from Italy! We all became fast friends and there was a group of USAC guys who lived in the apartment below us which made for fun traveling times, big family dinners, and a great group of people to hang out with.
Public transport in California is not a common mode of transportation, but in Spain and most of Europe, it is the main way of getting around so that was a big change for me. At first I was hesitant and skeptical about riding the bus everywhere, but after I knew the bus routes better and acclimated to it, I cherished this convenient and inexpensive transportation mode. It also made Valencia feel more like a home to me since the majority of people who rode the bus were locals so I was able to mingle with them and practice my Spanish.
From my four and a half months abroad, I visited 7 countries and 2 continents (Spain, Morocco, Italy, France, Portugal, Germany, and Belgium). Studying abroad really opened my eyes to different cultures, people, cities, and lifestyles. I absolutely fell in love with Spain and I never would have guessed that a city almost 6,000 miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean, in a completely different country and time zone would end up feeling like a home as Valencia did for me.
Studying abroad pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible and because of that, I met some very influential people who helped shape the way I view my life, future career, and the world today. If you have even the slightest desire to study abroad, I suggest you pursue that dream and look into it! There is so much more to the world than just here in the United States, in California, in the Central Valley. I encourage you to take the leap and prepare yourself for an exciting adventure abroad.
Juliana Aguiar is a USAC Valencia alumna. She studied abroad in Valencia, Spain in Spring 2018. She attends California State University, Stanislaus.