Salamanca, Spain: Lifelong Impacts

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by Brandon Schettler | Emory Salamanca Program, Spring 2020

Deciding to study abroad in Salamanca, Spain, was more of an impulsive decision than a long-term commitment.

I realized that I enjoyed Spanish, and I wanted to participate in a program that provided as many opportunities as possible. The Salamanca program was appealing because of the homestay and frequent excursions. But little did I know, that semester-long experience would have a huge impact on my Emory major, academic opportunities, and post-graduation plans.

In the short-term, my Salamanca semester opened doors for completing my Spanish major, which I had declared the previous semester. When I met with my Spanish advisor, I had gone in thinking that I would only do a minor, but she told me that if I declared the major I could get a free t-shirt—and if it was too overwhelming, I could always switch it back to the minor.

I would often wander around the city to explore, and this was one of the places I ended up: a beautiful hike along the countryside.

But when I returned home, my Spanish skills (and the amount of credits that transferred over) were enough to convince me to carry through with the major. I had achieved a fluency that would have been impossible by only taking Spanish classes in Atlanta. All the frequent conversations with my host family provided an immersive experience that simply can’t be compared with anything except studying abroad.

And if I hadn’t have continued with the major, I would likely have very different plans for the near future.

In the fall of 2020, I began applying for teaching positions in both English and Spanish, my two academic focuses. This past Spring, after nearly fifteen interviews, I was offered a job teaching Spanish to middle schoolers in an independent school outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The interviewing process was grueling, and it was intimidating meeting with the entire Spanish department at that school, but they seemed pleased enough with my fluency to offer me the job.

I would not have received that offer if I hadn’t maintained my determination to complete the major. And I couldn’t have completed that major if I hadn’t studied abroad in Salamanca. One impulsive decision late in my sophomore year eventually led to a job, perhaps even a career.

Not all study abroad experiences will so perfectly correlate to plans after graduation. Even so, I learned that it never hurts to have an open mind and see where things take you.