Saludos desde Salamanca

  • By Ben Webster

    Wednesday, January 24, 2018
    Ben Webster at Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, Spain

    ¡Hola! 

    I am a strong believer that learning never stops. Though school was not in session in January, breaks are prime opportunities to pursue your interests and get outside your comfort zone. For the past two winter breaks, I have used that free time to travel abroad. 

    In 2016, I spent time in Shanghai, China studying marketing in east Asia and engaged in other enriching activities. This year, I visited Salamanca, Spain for two weeks and participated in an intensive Spanish-language program with International Students Abroad (ISA). 

    ISA believes the best way to learn a language is through practice. We spoke Spanish at home, in the classroom and with staff members. This was new to me and at times overwhelming. However, I experienced a dramatic increase in my Spanish proficiency. I am now a strong advocate for “jump in the deep end” or the deep immersion learning model to learn a language - no matter your level of proficiency with any language. 

    In traditional beginner or lower-level language classrooms in America, we rely on English to learn new languages. This can be helpful, though it may hinder us from getting the active practice needed to make mistakes and ultimately learn. I came to realize that if you have an interest in learning a second language, supplementing American classroom experiences with a study-abroad program is crucial. 

    The other exchange students and I were able to get not only a rich taste of the language in Spain, but of the food and other cultural experiences. The group I was in traveled to beautiful monasteries, cathedrals, castles, museums, gardens, other historical locations, and Segovia, a neighboring province. We ate traditional Spain dishes, walked breath-taking streets, and saw how Spaniards' business and social cultures function. It was an invaluable experience personally and as a student interested in global business. 

    Some unsolicited tips I would offer anyone planning on studying abroad: take risks, have stamina - it can be exhausting - document your travels well, properly plan, live in the moment and never think experiences like these are out of your reach! 

    Minority students, especially those from historically black institutions, are dramatically underrepresented in study-abroad programs and there is a vast amount of resources that can be leveraged to broaden its appeal. 

    ¡Adios! 


     Ben Webster is a senior at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore studying marketing.