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CIEE Alicante
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Rachel Smiga

Liberal Arts Major(s): Spanish
Other Major: Finance
Minor: International Business
Hometown: Lancaster, Pennsylvania

What was the best part of your experience?

During my study abroad experience here in Alicante, Spain, I've had the incredible opportunity to live with a host family. I live with a single woman, Mandi, who I've gotten to know extremely well. She only knows Spanish, and she has a heart of gold. She lives a very simple life, yet I've never seen her without a smile. She teaches me something new every single day and loves me like her own child. When I first arrived at her home, I felt very uncomfortable speaking Spanish and expressing my outgoing personality. It’s difficult to be yourself when there’s a language barrier and you don’t know the rules of a new home. However, Mandi has taught me the power of having courage to speak up, that being outside of your comfort zone is the best place you can be, and that embracing an entirely new culture is difficult yet unequivocally rewarding. She is the best part of my experience.

Living in a Spanish immersive area like Alicante has exercised my brain and has really challenged me academically

How did this experience impact you academically?

Learning a new language is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It takes a significant amount of thought at all hours of the day. And most importantly, it takes patience. Learning a language has no boundaries; you can never be satisfied. From formal language to colloquial language to body language, a language is always evolving, even for people who speak fluently. Living in a Spanish immersive area like Alicante has exercised my brain and has really challenged me academically.

How will this experience impact your career goals?

In terms of goals, I strive to work in an area that is very accepting and welcoming of many different cultures. I want to work with people, and I know I will be patient and understanding. Also, before coming to Alicante, I wanted to work in an area close to my home in Pennsylvania. However, after traveling every single weekend and learning to be very confident on trains, planes, boats, and buses, I am not going to put a constraint on distance when it comes to my career. If an opportunity presents itself that is outside of my comfort zone in terms of location, I will strive to take it. I think my study abroad experience has merely stretched my career goals beyond boundaries.

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