First of all, a big congratulations go out to the students who were admitted to the Johns Hopkins class of 2017! You should all be very proud and excited, and we can’t wait to meet those of you coming to SOHOP in the coming weeks!
This week, some of the Hopkins Interactive bloggers will be posting blogs about their favorite academic experience. Four years ago when I came here as a freshman, I probably would have guessed that my favorite academic experience during my time at Hopkins would be taking a really cool science class or working in a lab, but as it has turned out, my favorite academic experience hands down was taking part in the Johns Hopkins in Madrid semester abroad program.
As far as study abroad programs go, JHU in Madrid turned out to be the perfect fit for me. Our group consisted of 11 Hopkins students and our director, Manuel Colas, who is a former Hopkins PhD student and current professor at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid.
The first two weeks of the program were spent taking an intensive language course in Salamanca. I was a little skeptical of this part of the program at first since “intensive Spanish course” to me sounded kind of intimidating and sort of boring, but it was SO helpful having had two weeks of Spanish practice before we were thrown into courses at the Spanish university.
Salamanca is a gorgeous city. The university there is one of the oldest in the world, and the facades of the buildings look like they haven’t changed since the 1500s. I had never been to Europe before this trip, so this was really my first time seeing buildings that were over like 200 years old. Literally the whole city just looks like a postcard.
After spending our two weeks in Salamanca, we left for Madrid, Spain’s capitol city, where we would be spending the next three and a half months living with our host families and attending Universidad Carlos III. Living with a host family improved my Spanish a ton, and it was fun having two younger host sisters, Ana and Paula!
Courses at Universidad Carlos III were completely in Spanish, so the only time we really got to speak English was with each other and with the other American students there. I ended up taking 6 courses: Spanish Golden Age literature, Theory and Practice of Latin American short stories, 20th Hispanic-American literature, history of Spanish art, modern Spanish culture and civilization, and superior Spanish grammar. While some of the classes were definitely easier than at Hopkins, I was definitely challenged in others. Superior grammar was probably the hardest Spanish class I’ve ever taken and golden age lit was also very challenging. Overall though it was a great experience – I really did learn a lot and improve my language skills a ton.
For anyone who is questioning whether they want to study abroad: do it. Even if you have no idea where you want to go and you don’t speak a foreign language, you are absolutely not alone, and I guarantee that there is a program out there that will interest you. Just about every single Hopkins student I know that has come back from a study abroad program has said that it was the best semester of their life. It is such a fun experience and well worth having had!