Student Advice for Studying in Spain

Nov 27, 2017

by Ashleigh Stinson ’18 and Carlie Leidner ’17
Edited for content and length

Ashleigh Stinson ’18 and Carlie Leidner ’17 share their experiences studying abroad in Alicante, Spain through Proyecto Español this past summer, and have travel advice to give anyone else who may want to go on a Junior Journey trip to Spain. 

Ashleigh's Story

How do I even begin to express what this amazing study abroad experience has done for me? First, my Spanish has improved significantly. When I initially arrived at Proyecto Español, I was placed in level A2 classes, which are for beginner Spanish speakers. After only four months, I am excelling in level C1 classes, which are advanced courses offered by Proyecto Español. I am now confident in my ability to communicate in both written and verbal Spanish.

While studying abroad, I have relished the opportunity to observe and intern in three different settings for occupational and speech therapy:  a private pediatric clinic, a hospital, and a preschool. These experiences have allowed me to realize my passion for speech pathology and to explore different fields in which I will eventually make a career.

La Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain.

Through the study abroad program with Florida Southern College and Proyecto Español, I have ventured well beyond my “comfort zone,” challenging myself in ways I never imagined, and I have cultivated endearing and lifelong relationships, connecting with people from all over the world. It is heartwarming and thought provoking to celebrate our cultural differences while recognizing that, on a human level, we really are all the same. The opportunity to study abroad afforded to me by Florida Southern College is invaluable. It is a journey I will cherish for a lifetime and that I cannot recommend enough to students who wish to challenge themselves in every facet of life.

Carlie's Story

Going to Spain was an amazing experience that I may never receive again. With that being said, I was still terrified of going abroad without anyone to back me up, but it was the best experience of my life. My biggest advice to whoever is thinking of traveling abroad is that it’s okay to be afraid and nervous, but go anyways. Get out of your comfort zone and try new things because in the long run it will be so worth it.

On your journey, it’s important to know what is necessary to bring with you to make your stay in Spain a little more comfortable. Buy an adapter before you go, because I never came across one abroad, and a portable charger is so important because the bus rides are about five hours on average. Most importantly put a duffle bag in your suitcase because you will need it to bring extra presents back home. I went to Spain with a 37-pound suitcase and left with a 45-pound suitcase and a duffle.

Other things to consider are what not to bring. If you don’t have certain soap, shampoo, or conditioner that you use religiously, don’t bring any. They have Pantene over in Spain, which is what I use, and they have great shower gel. There is a drugería right by the school that has a ton. You also don’t need to bring towels. They say that you should bring a beach towel, but most families will have some for you to use.

With all this advice you are ready to go to Spain! The first trip we took as a group was for los deportes de agua, or water sports. It was a quick trip on the tram to a prettier beach than the one in Alicante, where we paddle boarded and learned to surf. If you know how to surf there’s nothing very exciting about it because the waves aren’t awesome, but you can say that you surfed in the Mediterranean. I have never surfed before so this was a cool experience for me; the instructors were kind and a lot of fun.

Carlie Leidner with a lizard designed by Antoni Gaudí.

They do speak some English, but try to listen to them when they speak Spanish; the more you learn, the better. After the activity, we had the option to go back home with the teachers or stay on the beach for the rest of the day. My roommates and I decided to stay and it was so pretty. We lay in the sun for hours and just hung out, like a typical beach day, but it was much more than that. We chatted about our families and all the new cool places we had found. It was so fun to share the awesome things Alicante had to offer.

The next trip we took as a larger group was to Valencia. This trip was funded through Proyecto Español and cost 20 euro, but going to Valencia was well worth it. Valencia is about two hours away from Alicante and is a larger city. Try the paella in the city and enjoy street shopping. In Valencia they had all of these knock off shops with fake shoes like Nike, Adidas, Puma, and others, as well as Prada and Michael Kors purses for very cheap. We also stopped at the science museum on the way back; I wish we had more time there but it was cool to see.

The next trip I took was on my own to los baños de reina in Campello. If you are going to Spain this is a place that you surely have to see. It’s actually a museum, but if you climb the rocks around the museum you can go swimming in the old fishing traps there. It’s historic, beautiful, and fun. Take some friends, and then walk down to the beach for lunch and stay for the day. You won’t regret it. It was definitely one of my absolute favorite trips. I went with new friends and we will have those memories forever.

Next, we went to Barcelona. After a six hour bus ride we finally made it to our hostel. Barcelona was beautiful. You tour a ton of different places but one I recommend going on your own is the Sagrada Familia. You can walk to it and look at it, but you have to go inside. You must buy tickets ahead of time, so do that at school a few days before you leave. It is architecturally, historically, and religiously amazing. I am Catholic, so this was a very spiritual experience for me, but my friend who was not was also in awe at how much thought went into this place and how beautiful it was. An important thing to note is that if you wish to pray in the Sagrada Familia, there is a certain area in front of the Eucharist, but your knees and shoulders MUST be covered, so brings a shawl or plan to be covered because it is a very rewarding experience.

Carlie Leidner at el baños de reinas.

We also went to many other places such as the Olympic Village and Camp Nou, and explored the city. There is also a mall there that was an old bull-fighting ring, where you can still see the original structure. I would recommend going to the top and getting dinner there because it’s totally amazing. On the way back to Alicante we went to the park of the architect Antoni Gaudí. It was stunning seeing all of his tile work in one place. I couldn’t stop taking photos. It was super crowded, but I loved it anyways.

Our final excursion of the trip was to the Fuentes de Algar, which was absolutely stunning. It was a bit of a stretch to go on a bus. I’m not going to lie I thought I wasn’t going to make it on that bus, but the view was one in a million. There is a place where you can jump of the waterfall into the water as well as get some pretty photo ops. The water is freezing, but the waterfalls were awesome. We also stopped at a small town of 200 people and ventured up a castle. This definitely is on top of my list of things I am so happy I did.

Shortly after this trip I found myself back on a plane to reality. I also found I have a lot of insight I would like to share with anyone else going on this journey to Spain.

  1. Get out of your comfort zone. If you want to grow as a person then you have to move out of what you are comfortable with. In the end, I promise it will be worth it and make one great memory.
  2. Be prepared for schoolwork. You are in class for six hours a day five days a week and you will have homework. It isn’t the most fun aspect of the trip, but you are there for credits and to learn Spanish so take it seriously. It is worth it.
  3. Power through it. You will be tired from the journey and you will feel sick in some way, whether it’s homesickness, a cold, allergies, or jetlag. Try to push through it and don’t miss a second, otherwise this trip will be gone in a blink of an eye. Make new friends, get out there and explore; it’s the best thing you can do with your time here in Spain. I promise that it is worth it.