Jacklyn Montiel, originally from Chicago, is currently a history major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She sat down with Illinois Abroad Advisor Clair Bryan to discuss her study abroad experience in Granada, Spain during the 2015 spring semester. Jacklyn is returning to Granada on the same program this spring.
Why did you decide to apply and participate in this program?
When I was in high school I took a senior class trip to Spain. During the trip I visited Granada and loved it there. I actually found out about my acceptance to the University of Illinois while I was in Sevilla, which is a very memorable moment for me. I knew I wanted to travel more as an Illinois student, so when I discovered that there was a study abroad program in Granada I knew I wanted to apply. My sister also wanted to study abroad there too because she was studying Spanish, and even though we were not sure how study abroad worked and we were worried about cost, it was all worth it in the end.
How did this experience benefit you academically? Personally? Professionally?
The experience definitely made me become more independent. You also learn more about what you want from life, that there is more out there and you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Particularly, traveling takes a lot of responsibility.
Did this experience change your future goals/aspirations in any way? If so, how?
Yes. I feel like I’m less stressed out about my exact path. It is not necessary to know what exact job you want to have, but it’s more important to have a passion of some sort. And if you want to travel, you can do it. I feel more positive about what I can do and what I want to do. Being bilingual is really cool, I mean, it's a whole different world. If you don’t at least understand the language of the country you are studying in, you miss out.
Why did you decide to go back to Granada?
Because I got to know the faculty and I trust the program. I feel like I would be getting more out of another semester in Granada than I would at Illinois. I am taking Spanish classes now, but I am not speaking it everyday out of necessity like I did in Granada. I like that the program’s goal is specific; to learn Spanish. After studying there, I realized that if you are going to really master the language, you have to be a major. My sister was a Spanish major too and she knows a lot, so when I came back to Illinois I decided I will add Spanish as a major.
How do you think your second study abroad experience will differ from your first study abroad experience?
Now that I know all these things about Spain that I didn’t know before, I think I will be able to focus even more fully on learning Spanish. I feel like I will be able to go above and beyond with my learning. Plus, I will be able to take classes that will count towards my Spanish major. I think the second time in Granada will be really different, because the first time I didn’t know what to expect. Trying to get used to the culture itself is difficult and four months abroad isn’t a lot. This second time around I know exactly what I need. I want to be able to be to say that I am fluent in Spanish with confidence and be able to teach it if I want to in the future. I will definitely focus on speaking less English and trying to speak more Spanish with the other students in the program this time.
Would you recommend this particular program, or similar study abroad experiences more generally, to other students? If so, why?
Yes, especially if you want to learn Spanish or about other cultures in general. One thing I want students to know is that if you weren’t brought up speaking the language, native speakers will be able to tell no matter what, but it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. So talk to your host family and talk to locals in the community. If you don’t listen to this advice, you will regret it. Not many people get to study abroad twice.
Why should other students study abroad in Granada, Spain?
Most programs don’t have a language requirement. I think that was the most important aspect of the program. You may study abroad and have a great time without speaking the language, but I think you will be missing out on some of the culture. You won’t always have the same kind of opportunity to learn another language.