Posted By: Career Enrichment Network
To see more photos from the Ronda, Program- check out the Facebook page. Samantha Lauriello, Print Journalism Major, Minoring in Spanish and Nutrition spent five weeks of her summer improving her Spanish skills. Samantha took part in the Ronda, Spain: Spanish Language and Culture Summer Faculty Led Program. The program is open to Sophomores and there is a 0-2 Semester Spanish language requirement, and students must have a 2.5 GPA. Read more about Samantha’s experience below!
Content and Photos Contributed by Samantha Lauriello:
As a freshman overwhelmed by the newness of college, I never would have expected myself to daringly apply for a pilot study abroad course that was to take place during what was supposed to be my first summer back home. Though I’m not sure what whim I followed when I accepted my offer to attend the Ronda, Spain program my Spanish professor had advertised so eagerly, that whim has made an unforgettable impact on my college career. This lasting impact was the result of a small town that served as the perfect door to my cultural experience. It’s perfection came from the close knit community that is the town of Ronda. Though the town itself may be small, it’s enormous beauty radiates not only from the incredible landscape, but also from the people who inhabit this safe haven. Ronda’s comforting setting serves as a quintessential home for students to grow and learn within a supportive community.
I chose to go abroad during the summer as a way to introduce myself to education abroad. As a freshman, I wanted to explore my interest in eventually studying abroad for a full semester, but first wanted to ensure I would feel comfortable doing so. Attending a five week summer program let me test the waters of going abroad without diving in head first. Studying in Ronda helped me to discover my passion for culture and made my goal of studying abroad for a full semester concrete.
Upon returning from our program, the other students on the trip and I decided we wanted to share the impact Ronda left on us with others. Through this desire to share our experience, we decided to form an official club on campus that would focus on bringing aspects of Spanish culture to other Penn State students. We centered our focus on tapas, or traditional Spanish cuisine, because shared meals were something that truly brought us together during our time abroad. As we continue developing the club, we are excited to be able to bring these traditions to campus.
Though I always hoped to be able to put my language skills to use, I never saw this as a true possibility until my time abroad. Seeing as I one day hope to work in the communications field, being able to efficiently communicate with as many people as possible is extremely important. Now that I feel I can effectively communicate through the Spanish language, I’m eager to put this skill to use in a professional setting. Also, I hope to one day use these skills to aid those who wouldn’t be able to communicate otherwise or are learning a second language.
Every student who is anticipating going abroad will feel nerves stirring as the departure date approaches. These nerves can be transferred into a drive that will aid one’s abroad experience in countless ways. For example, one can focus on researching the area in which they plan to study, reach out to their host family before arrival, or plan weekend excursions, all with the energy that would otherwise be wasted on nerves. By releasing nervous emotion and preparing for the trip of a lifetime, one can focus their entire time abroad on simply appreciating each and every moment.
Before studying abroad, I felt similarly to many foreign language students; I felt that I was studying a language without ever getting to truly use it. After taking three Spanish courses abroad, as well as speaking the language outside of class, I feel as if my confidence in my second language has multiplied immeasurably. Entering my sophomore year, I decided to take language courses that would challenge me in a way that would maintain the growth I had achieved abroad. Without the confidence Ronda instilled in me, I wouldn’t have been able to take that risk.
As our final days in Ronda approached, my housemate and I became growingly saddened by the thought of leaving our host mother who we had grown so close to. Though the laughs we shared would never be forgotten, we wanted to surprise her with something to always remind her of our time together. Knowing our host mother adored flowers, my housemate and I picked out a stunning vine of petite lavender buds to add to her garden. Upon arriving home from school on our last day of classes, we walked into the kitchen where our host mother would be cooking lunch each day upon our arrival. As we walked in holding the potted vine, the surprise on our host mother’s face was an unforgettable expression of genuine gratitude followed by tears flowing from each of our eyes. At that moment I truly realized how much of a mutual impact we had left on one another and how much I would miss having my host mother as a part of my daily life.