Experience Study Abroad: Linguistic Immersion

Everyone has different reasons for studying abroad. For some, it’s a way to experience a brand new culture. For others, it’s a way to dive into their field of study in a new environment. And for others yet, it’s a way to connect with your roots. Follow along as Alejandra Flores recounts her cultural and linguistic immersion in Alicante, Spain.

This past winter break I embarked on a journey across the Atlantic to study abroad in Alicante, Spain for three weeks. I chose this destination because I wanted to take a Spanish course and fully commit to practicing Spanish by placing myself in a Spanish speaking country. Although Spanish was my first language growing up, my Spanish proficiency is nowhere near my English proficiency today. My parents are from Mexico and they were always most comfortable speaking Spanish at home. Speaking Spanish at home is the reason why I can speak conversational Spanish very well without having even taken a Spanish class. I had hoped that in college I would get the chance to enroll in a Spanish course because I wanted to build a more extensive vocabulary and understand the grammar of the language. This trip was my last chance to accomplish my goal of improving my Spanish and my last chance to travel abroad as a student, so I jumped at the opportunity to do so.

I chose the the USAC-Alicante, Spain program because it provided me with the opportunity to live with a host family, which I wanted to take part in to get a deeper cultural and linguistic immersion. My host mom was very welcoming and sweet and we enjoyed talking about the similarities and differences between our two cultures. We spoke exclusively in Spanish and she cooked traditional Spanish meals so I could try as many authentic dishes as possible. In class I learned about the subtle differences between Spain’s Spanish and Latin American Spanish, such as the use of “vosotros” (plural you), the unique Spanish accent which sounds like a lisp, and many vocabulary words that are different from what I am accustomed to using at home.

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Furthermore, Spain stood out to me among other destinations because of its intertwined history with Mexico. As I visited historic sites, castles and cathedrals, I was able to envision Spain in its time of glory when they embarked across the ocean and colonized what is now Mexico. The Spanish’s journey across the ocean was a true testament to their power and wealth, and a big accomplishment for their people. However, this also changed the lives of the natives in Mexico. The Spanish are the ones responsible for the language I speak today, the religion I follow, and many of the traditions my family practices. I felt a connection to the Spanish country but I also felt like an outsider. It was nice to see the place where part of my culture originated but it also made me more curious to know who my ancestors were before the Spanish arrived. I wish I could know what traditions they practiced, the gods they worshiped, and the language they spoke. I think my next trip will be to Mexico City, Mexico where many Aztec ruins are today. I know that I will once again feel a connection to this place that will be equally as magical.

Written by: Alejandra Flores, Honors Student

Alejandra is a senior studying Marketing Analytics at the University of Iowa. She is a Chicago native who’s been transplanted to Iowa City. Her favorite experiences at the University of Iowa have been the experiential learning opportunities she has sought out such as, studying abroad in San Pedro Columbia, Belize and Alicante, Spain, working as a Marketing Research Assistant, serving as a Teaching Assistant for Financial Management and completing internships with State Farm, Converge Consulting and the Marketing Institute.

Edited by: Chloe Sekhran, Blog Manager

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