I’m a recent graduate of the class of 2006 from Western Michigan University with a Bachelors of Art in Secondary Education double majoring in English and Spanish. I’m originally from Troy, Michigan located on the east side of the state. In the fall of 2005, I studied abroad in Burgos, Spain through Western’s program sponsored by the Spanish Department. We departed August 7 from Detroit and arrived in Burgos the following afternoon. We returned to the United States on December 16, 2005.
Burgos is a city located two hours north of Madrid in the Castilla-Leon region. While there, I attended la Universidad de Burgos, where I took intense language classes in Spanish for the first seven weeks to get up to speed. The second half of the semester I took classes in art, history, architecture, and geography.
My Spanish language class
Our group also went on excursions offered through the university to cities such as Salamanca and Madrid. We had plenty of free time on the weekends to travel individually or with friends in the group. I was able to visit Madrid, Barcelona, Santander, Venice, Rome, Florence, Munich, Geneva, Paris, and London. During a two-week vacation from classes my parents met me in Madrid to travel throughout Europe.
Educationally, this trip to Burgos was priceless as I learned more culture and aspects of the language than can be taught in a classroom. Living with a host family for the duration and visiting with their relatives in small pueblos allowed me to really understand the Spanish lifestyle. As a future teacher, these experiences will allow me to give my students a first-hand look at pictures and artifacts directly from Spain.
Cathedral in the middle of the city
My language skills improved 100 percent and I can now speak street Spanish, slang, write fluent papers, read books written about history, and fully understand material taught in a classroom with a native teacher.
As far as the affect this trip had on my personal life, this is a one-of-a-kind-trip-of-a-lifetime. I learned so much about myself, about facing my fears about leaving my family and friends to live in a foreign country with a new family, as well as my fears of certain foods. This trip taught me to appreciate and tolerate people who are different racially, ethnically, and personality wise. While there were times that I was homesick and scared to death, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. In fact, I want to go back and visit Burgos and my host family next summer!