As my undergraduate studies have come to an end and I reflect on life after graduation, I can confidently say that studying abroad in Salamanca was the single most transformative experience I’ve had in my college career. It’s been over a year since I was abroad and I still find myself constantly thinking back to the whirlwind of a semester that I had at the University of Salamanca. I remember racing back and forth from the ISA Salamanca office to receive tutoring from locals, going on coffee breaks every Tuesday morning with my service-learning supervisors, and asking my Spanish classmates to repeat everything they said so that I could try to perfect my Spanish accent.
A year later, I’ve become more actively involved than ever with the Spanish Department on my campus. My continuous insistence to get my Spanish friends to teach me their accent and correct my language mistakes really paid off! I was featured as a top student in the department and received a scholarship in recognition for my achievements. I work with professors and other Spanish majors to help organize departmental events where we’re speaking mostly in Spanish. I also speak to prospective high school students at department-wide events. I now have more confidence to participate in my Spanish classes and find that much of the material I learn in class relating to culture, including famous monuments, paintings and artifacts in Spain, were places and sights I actually saw in person. This strengthened my understanding and interest in the material, thanks to the excursions that ISA planned during my semester abroad.
Additionally, I’ve interviewed with companies in New York City and my experience in Spain has undoubtedly helped me stand out in the job market. I’m a double major in Linguistics and Spanish, and for those who are also studying foreign languages looking to work with language service providers, the knowledge and skills you can accumulate abroad instantly make you stand out to future employers.
The courses with locals that I took in Salamanca gave me specific skills that employers were looking for, and eventually led to multiple job offers. These classes offered instruction on specialized topics and training for specific hard skills that weren’t available at my home university. My Legal and Economic Translation class gave me an inside look into international law and even landed me an internship in the New York State Unified Court System the semester I came back home. This was a specific experience I spoke to in an interview that sparked conversation and impressed one of my interviewers. My Technological Resources for Translation class offered training in computer-assisted translation tools, a skill which many translation companies in today’s market look for and that many of my interviewers specifically asked about.
Finally, the service-learning component of my program not only helped me understand and reflect on my study abroad experience in an intercultural context, but also showed me a new way of approaching a work-life balance that I believe is not addressed enough, especially in an environment like New York City. I worked at the University of Salamanca’s Environmental Office every Tuesday. During our meetings in the ISA Salamanca office with other service-learning participants, I frequently spoke about how shocking it was for me to experience such a relaxed yet productive work culture. My service-learning supervisors and I would step out every morning for a coffee break and greet familiar faces along the way. It always struck me that during office hours, my colleagues and supervisors would be laughing and having a good time, while still staying productive and efficient. It showed me that work doesn’t have to be the dreary, 9-5 corporate life that is often characteristic of the NYC work culture. It also taught me the value in communicating openly with my supervisors to ensure that I am constantly learning something and growing during my time in the office.
As one of my Spanish friends put it, “Americans live to work and Spaniards work to live.” Talking about the importance of work culture and the work-life balance in a city that never sleeps made interviews much more personal and allowed me to establish meaningful, professional relationships with the people who interviewed me.
In general, my fluency across reading, writing, and speaking in Spanish skyrocketed after my semester in Salamanca, and transformed the rest of my college career. Throughout this journey, I’ve learned how to effectively articulate my study abroad experiences and how to use those skills to stand out in the job market. Since my undergraduate career has concluded and I’ve made my way to New York, I’ll never forget my roots in Salamanca and how it got me where I am today.