Julianne Landon

International Institute, Madrid, Spain

My semester in Spain went very well. I really enjoyed taking classes, meeting my professors and had a wonderful internship with the Centro de Acogida a refugiados (Refugee Reception Centre). While there, I conducted entrance interviews with new residents, helped them register with Town Hall, requested records and attended doctor appointments to help translate.

I also set up and attended various meetings with other Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that worked with refugees. Most residents were from Syria or Palestine and I learned a lot about their cultures. I also attended a conference, read articles and books about Syria’s current situation. What I liked most about Spain and Europe was the architecture. The buildings are so beautiful and historical. There is so much to do there. I absolutely loved Madrid and I didn’t want to leave.

Reprinted by permission from the Languages, Literatures and Cultures Winter 2013-14 Newsletter.

Get more details about the International Institute in Madrid through the following page:

Shaun Johnson

AIP Language Institute, Valencia, Spain

Fireworks are exploding all around me. It's day three of "Las Fallas," the second largest festival on the planet, and my homework assignment is simple: to stay out until dawn.

For the past two months I have been studying in Valencia, Spain at the AIP Language Institute and Las Fallas has been one of the many wonderful events I've experienced. Typical days at AIP include classes of Spanish language, history, art, and cinema. Afternoons involve swimming in the Mediterranean Sea along with pick-up games of soccer and volleyball at the "playa maravillosa," a beach that is most appropriately named. The day ends with a well-prepared dinner made by my loving host family. These dinners have taught me how to properly use olive oil, and that no Spanish dinner is complete without a few slices of jamón serrano (or dry-cured Spanish ham), a staple found throughout the Iberian Peninsula.

The AIP Language Institute provides the perfect blend of classes, cultural activities, and excursions to distinct parts of the city. During one such excursion to the city's iconic Plaza de Toros, I witness the true art of courage. After watching the matadors' style and poise in front of these half-ton beasts, I now understand what Hemingway meant when he described those who demonstrate "grace under pressure." The countless warm spring days on the east coast of Spain often call for a glass of chilled Horchata, a refreshing, distinctly Valencian refreshment that has no equivalent worldwide. The Roman ruins found throughout Valencia serve as a reminder of where the city has been, while the contemporary architectural masterpiece by Santiago Calatrava known as the "City of Arts and Sciences" has provided me with a glimpse into its future.

Four months after arriving to this paradise along the Mediterranean, I now find myself constantly having dreams where I only speak Spanish. I feel at home in a foreign country with all of the new friends I have made. Reflecting on my experience towards the end of my time in Valencia, I begin to realize all it has done for me. Thankful for this once in a lifetime opportunity, I extend my heartfelt gratitude towards the city, its people, and to the study abroad program offered by UAlbany for the tremendous experience I have had.

Fast forward to the present day. Four years after returning back to New York, I now have a career teaching elementary and middle school students the Spanish language and its rich culture. In my mind, this is the most rewarding way to pay forward Valencia for all that it has done for me. Teaching an understanding and appreciation of Valencia for future generations is the very least I can do for such an incredible place and unforgettable time in my life.

Study in Valencia, Spain at the AIP Language Institute!

No prior knowledge of Spanish required!

Kim Moonan 

Valencia, Spain and Santiago, Chile

Two-time Study Abroad Participant Wins Chancellor's Award!

This year's recipients of the State University of New York Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence includes two-time study abroad participant Kimberly Moonan. The prestigious award recognizes students in the graduating class who have demonstrated the highest levels of academic excellence and made significant contributions to campus life at their respective universities. 

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher also referred to the award as an “honor” for students who “have excelled academically and taken advantage of what SUNY has to offer outside the classroom.” Moonan, who is majoring in Social Welfare with a double minor in Spanish and Psychology, epitomizes those standards within our own University at Albany.  The award is a culmination of her commitment to excellence and a tribute to her hard work during her undergraduate experience. 

Kimberly Moonan, who will graduate this May and move on to Columbia University to pursue her Masters in Social Work in hopes of becoming a clinician who works with at-risk youth, also studied abroad twice. She went to Santiago, Chile during the 2007/08 wintersession then to Valencia, Spain, during summer 2008. She took some time to answer some questions about her experiences abroad and how they have affected her view of the world. (Also check out some of Kim's pictures of her experiences!)

How did your Study Abroad experiences match up with your academic and career goals?

For me studying abroad was not just a matter of the excitement and fun of traveling, but it was also a means to enrich my education. I am Spanish minor and I never would have been able to truly grasp and understand the language if I did not spend time immersing myself in the culture and life of Spanish speaking cultures. My Spanish-language skills increased drastically as a result.

Both of your study abroad experiences were within the same year and to very different Spanish speaking countries, Chile and Spain. Did you observe any major cultural differences between those countries?

I studied abroad in countries that aren’t just on different continents, but the cities I stayed in were also drastically different. Santiago is an inland city surrounded by mountains that serves as Chile’s capitol and Valencia is a city where beaches and historical buildings coexist. There were also many differences in the language between the two countries. They certainly offered me drastically different experiences, but what is more amazing is what they had in common. Both cities welcomed me into their homes and into their lives. On my journeys I met incredibly generous and kind people who were eager to get to show me their culture and to get to know mine.

How much did your Spanish speaking skills improve from these experiences? And was that one of your goals?

Before studying abroad in Chile I had only completed the SPN 100 and 101 (lower level Spanish courses) and my skills were very elementary. However, 7 months later, after continuing my education at the University and spending 6 weeks in Spain, I was able to have very complex conversations with native speakers. I believe that my time abroad was the main source of the improvement and I never would have been able to make such broad leaps without studying abroad. Spending every day around people who speak Spanish forces you to take in the language and inevitably improves your own skills.

Did you have any experiences while you were abroad that changed the way you view the world?

Studying abroad gives you the opportunity not only to explore other countries, but also to explore yourself. During my experiences abroad I grew as a person and became more independent. I had the opportunity to meet many people, not only from Spain and Chile, but also from all over the world. These people helped to break down the pre-conceived notions about what certain people and places are like and made me realize that we are all amazing and interesting people. The experience of living in a foreign country helped me to gather a deeper understanding of their values, especially the emphasis on enjoying and living life to the fullest.

What other benefits do you feel you gained from studying abroad?

Studying abroad was an amazing experience and I sincerely think that everyone should take the time to study in a foreign country.



Danielle DeLeo

AIP Language Institute, Valencia, Spain

I always knew that I wanted to study abroad, but it was never a reality until I was in the plane on my way to Spain. It was the most unique feeling I've ever experienced. Half of me was thinking I was crazy for just leaving my life at home and going by myself to live in a new country in which I don't speak the language, to live with an unknown family, in an unknown city, with a group of other students I had never met before. But the other half of me was euphoric. I was following my heart and doing what I wanted to do. Little did I know that it was more than just a trip, but a life changing experience. I am forever a different person with a new outlook on life and the world all together. The moment I set foot on that plane I began a whole new chapter in my life, and I am forever grateful. When I try to describe my thoughts and feelings about my year abroad, I simply run out of adjectives.

I didn't sign up for a whole year abroad, but only a semester. After arriving in Valencia, Spain, the next thing I knew I was moved in, settled, and calling home to let my parents know that I didn't want to come back. After only a week there I had my mind set that I wanted to extend my stay to two semesters instead of just one. Going to see the school and having orientation only accelerated my efforts to stay. Everyone at the school was welcoming and extremely helpful, paired with a list of incredible opportunities like excursions to Morocco and attending various festivals around Spain. I realized that before this experience I was so intimidated by the unknown, but after, the unknown became what wished for. If I can do it, anyone can.

Spain's culture instantly grabbed a hold of my heart. The family I stayed with made me feel like I was truly part of their family. My host mother and father were both so friendly and helped me learn Spanish, which I knew practically none of prior. They helped me acclimate to the culture and made me feel like a Spaniard. Every time fish was served for a meal, my host father would tease me because I didn't like it. He would kid about how I was less Spanish in his mind unless I ate fish. That aside, I developed a great relationship with them and miss them dearly everyday. Everyone was friendly and positive, and I think that helped me step out of my comfort zone and realize what I am capable of. I fell in love with the Spanish lifestyle. I even learned, or realized, a lot about my own lifestyle, after being out of my element. Reflection was a prize quality that I acquired from doing this. It opened my mind and made me realize how much there is to learn about the world we live in and the person that I am, and can be in the future.

In addition to the wonderful staff of the school, the friendly family I lived with, and the culture I became a part of, I met some of the most incredible people ever. I made lifelong friendships with other students who went on the program with me. Everyone was there for the same reason: to learn. Whether it was to learn the culture, the language, about themselves, or about the world in general, everyone was open minded and has left a lasting impression in my life forever.

I picked Albany's Valencia program for many reasons. For one, the city is incredible. It is the perfect combination of everything I was looking for. It had a historical background that adds to a rich culture with festivals such as Fallas, and outstanding architecture like the Miguelete Tower. Then it has an intense modern quality with works such as Calatrava's Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias. In addition to those it is right on the Mediterranean with an exceptional climate. I knew I wanted to see other parts of Europe, so having a home base in Spain allowed cheaper travel to places such as Paris, Prague, Rome, Lisbon, and even Morocco and Egypt. I got to see a ton of new places, each with something unique to offer.

All in all, it is difficult to put words to how I feel about my year abroad. If anything, know that it is more than just a trip or vacation. It has the possibility to change a person profoundly, and forever. Going with the right attitude and open mind allows a person to grow and learn an innumerable amount of things about almost everything: the world, people, yourself, home, friendship, love, culture, and etc... It also taught me to be grateful for what I have and to make every moment count. I would never take back that year for anything. Since coming back to the United States, I changed my major and my whole life direction. I'm pursuing a major in International Studies and interning at my International Education office at my home school of Oneonta.

This changed my life, opened my world, shaped some of my values, and introduced me to some of the most important people of my life. Way more than just a trip, and an experience I would recommend to everyone.


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