I was fortunate to be able to study abroad twice as an undergraduate student at Ole Miss. I spent a month in Costa Rica one summer, and it was a learning experience that I will never forget. I thought it would be my only study abroad experience, but as I was wrapping up my coursework in the fall of 2007, my advisor realized that I lacked a credit for my Spanish minor. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze into a Wintersession course in January 2008. My last class at Ole Miss, Spanish 399, was taken in Madrid, Spain! I was a little worried because this course seemed a bit advanced for me, but the faculty leader, Professor Jason Klodt, was very reassuring and supportive.
There were only 5 students total in our group, and I didn’t know any of them before the trip, but we quickly became friends. I was paired with another student named Darby, and we stayed in a flat with our host mother, Paloma. She did not speak one bit of English, but she was very hospitable and cooked the most amazing meals. Each day, we would go to class for 3-4 hours in the morning then we would venture off to find something to eat for lunch. We did a lot of sight-seeing in Madrid. The architecture is incredible! We visited several palaces, toured gardens and viewed statues and murals. I was actually an art major, so I especially enjoyed touring the Museo Nacional Del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. We ended most days by eating dinner with our host mother. She cooked a lot of traditional Spanish dishes, but she also really enjoyed French cuisine, so we were always in for a treat!
Our group took a few day trips, including a train ride to Segovia, where we toured the cathedral and the castle. It is said that Walt Disney drew inspiration from the Alcazar de Segovia (pictured above) when dreaming up Cinderella’s iconic castle.
Taking the 300-level course while living with a Spanish-speaking host mother in a very fast-paced city definitely forced me out of my comfort zone. It was difficult at times, but the challenge was also very exciting. My understanding of the Spanish language changed immensely in those two weeks. The school and my teacher in Madrid were excellent, but we were also able to fit in a lot of learning, exploring and cultural moments (like the New Year’s Eve tradition of eating 12 grapes that symbolize 12 lucky months ahead). Plaza Mayor (below) was a favorite of mine, as well. It was truly an amazing experience, and I wish every student could study abroad at least once!