Ask Away: 5 Questions for a Study Abroad Champion Learning Italian & Spanish
We’re asking students, recent grads, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…
Meet Taylor—a Colorado State University political science and international studies major from Ohio completing minors in Spanish and legal studies.
1. You’re a passionate advocate for study abroad and immersive cultural experiences—starting with your own adventures abroad as a high school and university student! What was your first study abroad experience? How did you learn about it and what was involved?
My first study abroad experience was through AFS my second semester junior year of high school. I heard about it from a family friend.
I spent 7 months in a small town near Bari, Italy, called Cerignola. There I stayed with a local host family, attended an Italian high school, and learned the Italian language.
I would say my biggest takeaway from this experience was the Italian language and noting cultural differences from a different country. I still keep in contact with my host family and friends from my time abroad.
Studying abroad gave me a sense of confidence and independence that I did not have before.
2. What about your study abroad experience did you find most challenging, and what was the best part?
I think the biggest challenge was navigating the language barrier: I had no previous knowledge of Italian before, so I had to learn it all from scratch. I think the best part was having my host family to support me and always be there when I needed something.
3. Have you done any other types of immersive stays overseas—internships, etc.? How were you able to put your language and cultural skills into practice?
I did an international internship during the summer going into my third year at Colorado State University (CSU) in Valencia, Spain. I was able to apply my Spanish minor to my internship and was able to communicate with my coworkers.
Italy and Spain also have pretty similar Mediterranean culture, so I was able to navigate cultural differences and learn more from my internship because of that.
4. As someone who has experienced it first-hand and as a current peer-advisor at your school’s International Programs Office, what advice or message about language learning and study abroad would you like to share with fellow students? How about tips for students who are returning home following a prolonged experience abroad?
My biggest advice is to look into what your school has to offer.
I think there is a common misconception that study abroad is hard to accomplish, but there are many resources that universities around the country have to offer. Whether it's scholarships or long-term/short-term programs, there are many opportunities that can be catered to your wants or requirements.
I also recommend taking the leap. I know it can be daunting at first, but study abroad is truly a life-changing experience.
For those returning, I would say see what your school provides! There are many social media pages, meet ups, and returnee resources for students who come back. There you can meet with people who had similar experiences and you can share things that non returnees have not experienced! Some affiliate programs also offer returnee jobs/internships and alumni opportunities, so investigate those as well!
5. Could you share an anecdote about a funny, moving, or memorable moment made possible because of your language or cultural skills? Why is it special to you?
I think my favorite anecdote was when Italian finally “clicked” for me during my time abroad.
I would study for a few hours every day after school, and I remember having a conversation with my host mom and host sister, I remember I said the sentence perfectly and even used more advanced grammatical structures. My host mom and sister cheered and congratulated me.
After that I truly felt I belonged and was starting to get a hang of things.
You recently wrote a series of blog posts for a CSU class that address common misconceptions Americans may have about language learning and reasons why students should consider learning a language. Would you say has most surprised you about your own language learning journey?
I would say how quickly I was able to pick up the language as soon as I was in the host country. I think many people believe that it takes forever to master a language, but I remember working hard at it and being rewarded for my hard work.
I think I truly got out of my experience as much as I put into it.
Check out our Connect with Italian and Spanish pages to explore language scholarships, university programs, testimonials, and more! And, as always, visit @LangConnectsFdn on social media to share your story with us.