Last summer, I was very privileged to be sent to Spain for five weeks by International Studies Abroad (ISA), a company that works closely with the UF International Center on dozens of study abroad expeditions. As an intern for ISA, I used my experience as native English speaker to work on the translation of pamphlets and contracts, as well as to help and encourage some of the students who had arrived in the country without all of the necessary language skills to navigate daily interactions. I also had the opportunity to volunteer at a local English school called Hello!, where I worked with several groups of Spanish speakers who were learning English as their second language. My experience with both ISA and Hello! were invaluable to me, in terms of developing marketable skills as I seek to enter the labor market within the next few months.
“This internship gave me the opportunity to have a lot of fun in a country that I love.”
Additionally, I was able to collaborate with ISA and with the students abroad in order to design and carry out a linguistic research study. This project investigated the effects of studying abroad in a second language environment on the student’s first language. I discovered that, for many of the students, their improvement in Spanish over the four weeks caused small but significant changes in the way they use English, their native language. These findings are very exciting, and I am excited to be able to present them at a conference at the Ohio State University this April.
Finally, but by no means least importantly, this internship gave me the opportunity to have a lot of fun in a country that I love. It gave me an opportunity to return to Sevilla, where I had previously studied as an ISA student, and to visit with my former host family, with whom I still have close contact. Additionally, I was able to take several weekend trips to experience the variety of Spanish culture in Valencia, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Avila, and San Sebastián, as well as to take a hiking expedition near the border with Portugal. And on a day-to-day basis, ISA afforded the students and me with many opportunities to take historical tours of the city, to meet and eat local Spaniards, and even to play a little fútbol with the other international students.
My summer in Salamanca with ISA was an unforgettable one for a variety of reasons. Other than being a wonderful time with good friends, it provided me with experiences that have contributed to my professional success as a teacher and as a student of Spanish.