The People You Meet in Spain

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by Brandon Schettler | Emory Salamanca Program, Spring 2020

A study abroad experience isn’t one person, one place, or even one experience. It’s a culmination of everything that results in something you’ll never forget. My time in Salamanca, Spain left me with memories I’ll have for the rest of my life, and everyone involved in the program helped achieve that. 

My host family contributed to one of my main goals for the program: becoming fluent in Spanish. They didn’t know any English, so our conversations at each meal were entirely in Spanish. But what was incredible about my family was how far above expectations they went. In the most basic sense, they were supposed to provide a comfortable room and three meals a day. My host family did all of those things, of course, but they also went out of their way to make sure that I felt welcomed. For someone who had never left the country before, their kindness went a long way in helping me adjust to Spain. 

The very first day I was there, they met me at the bus, helped carry my luggage, and right away started asking me about my life. I was jet-lagged and very aware that this would be the first conversation of many carried out exclusively in Spanish. Even though my language skills were certainly lower at the beginning of the program than they would be by the end, I understood from that very first conversation how nice my host parents were. They insisted on calling me hijo, or son. With just that single word, these people I had just met made me feel like I was part of their family. 

On an Emory excursion to Portugal (featuring fellow Emory Explorer Rose Tehrani!)

And if my host family was the part of the program that immersed me in Spain, my friends were the counterbalance that kept me from being overwhelmed. Since there weren’t many people in the Emory program, we all ended up having a great community by the end. Sure, maybe we spoke English with each other when we probably should have been practicing Spanish, but sometimes you just need a little taste of home. I became great friends with Rose Tehrani, a fellow Emory Explorer, because of that community. I would not have had as much fun on field trips or noticed as many interesting cultural aspects of Salamanca without her.

And I could not mention my experience without talking about our unparalleled leaders: the program director, Maica, and assistant director, Ángel. Together they made sure that everything about the experience ran smoothly. They were involved in a few of our classes, but they were also there as mentors, advisors, and whatever else we needed.

Looking back on the program, I am very aware of how lucky I was to be around such great people. Friends, professors, directors, advisors, and even random Spaniards that I met. When you add them all up, the result is an experience in Salamanca that I wouldn’t trade for anything.