Learning a second language is a daunting task! Everyone says the best way to really learn is to immerse yourself, and visit or live in a place where the language is spoken. If you don’t use it, you’ll never learn it! Semester abroad programs are often taught in English, and the language portion is not as emphasized. This is why Summer Language programs are so awesome! A summer abroad gives you the opportunity to focus on your new language without the distractions of other subjects. We interviewed Charlie, a Sophomore at George Mason University to learn about his experience on the GMU Summer Language Study in Buenos Aires.
Charlie is a student intern at the Center for Global Education, and a study abroad enthusiast! Before his summer abroad trip to Argentina, he spent a week in northern Spain. He chose to go to GMU because of their study abroad programs and opportunities.
Why did you choose to study abroad?
I came to Mason for study abroad programs, I want to travel a lot and I think having international experience on resume is valuable. I’m thinking about becoming a Global Business major.
The Summer Language Study in Buenos Aires was a four week trip with 5 hours of language class each day! He stayed with a family and had his afternoons as free time. They went on excursions to Recoleta, El Tigre, a picnic in the Palermo forest, walking tour of La Boca and Plaza de Mayo, and a trip to Cafe Tortoni to see a live Tango show. The program also offered an optional trip to Iguazu Falls.
How was your housing?
My homestay was amazing. I was in one of the largest housing units of my program and I stayed with another member of my group, and another student from Morocco that had been there for a year. My host mom was amazing and I learned a lot from her and felt taken care of. She gave me sheets, a great room, and a nice closet for my things. She also had dinner and breakfast waiting for us everyday, allowing us to eat whenever we pleased. Whenever I would eat, she would come into the kitchen and we would talk about our day, laugh when we didn’t understand each other, and got to know each other.
Would you recommend a Homestay?
For a longer period abroad, I think I would prefer a dorm. But for language or short term programs, I think it’s better to stay in a homestay.
Since summer programs are shorter, many people feel more comfortable with a homestay. Living with a local family dramatically increases your chances of becoming fluent. See our other tips on Language Fluency here.
How do you think study abroad impacted your major or future career goals?
I think it gave me a leg up; an experience to talk about, a challenge.
In the future, Charlie is looking forward to working in the Global Business area. He would like to do a summer internship in NYC, and live or work abroad at some point.
How has your Spanish language improved?
I feel my language skills have improved, although, like I said, being in the city longer would have been beneficial. I was able to practice both in class, at my home-stay, and while I was out eating, shopping, on the Subte, buying bus tickets, and so much more. Definitely was not a shortage of people who wanted to listen to be speak Spanish and laugh and correct me. It was a great environment to learn and not be afraid to just talk to someone in a cafe and even if I said something incorrectly, they would help me and when they would speak everyone would speak slowly so that I could understand.
Summer abroad programs can also be a great introduction to living abroad, many students who study abroad in the summer, go on to study abroad for a full semester or year. The intensive language program can give you a head start on your longer adventure abroad! You may also feel more comfortable going to an alternative location with fewer American students, if you’ve tested the waters on a shorter trip abroad.
What was the best part of your trip abroad?
The people I met. I got a chance to make friends with people from all over the country, and they’ve been really influential for me. I also made friends with a girl who had been living in Buenos Aires for a year, and she introduced me to a bunch of her local friends.
Words of wisdom:
My advice to a student going on this program would be to go out and do as much as you possibly can. Even if you are tired, go out and explore, even going to a different section of the city and sitting in a cafe was one of the most interesting experiences of my trip. Don’t be lazy. Explore. Any type of student could benefit this program, yet a student with a more independent mindset would do well on this trip.
Was your Study Abroad experience worthwhile?
After my study abroad experience in Buenos Aires, I feel I have both grown as an individual and as student. I am more independent and much better at taking things as they come, enjoying the current moment, and making the most of a less than likely situation. I am also more outgoing and am more motivated in school. My experience has changed my cultural awareness in that I now know, that what someone says about a city or country may not be true, and only going to that country to see for yourself will disprove what someone else says.