UVA in Valencia: Hispanic Studies Program
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Justin Gorak

Major: Economics, Spanish
Hometown: Newtown, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found this program on the Penn State Global Studies website. My Spanish 253W professor also recommended the program because the department has seen strong improvements in students' Spanish skills.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

In Valencia, I had the opportunity to live with a Spanish host family and volunteer as a teaching assistant in an English class while taking five courses conducted exclusively in Spanish. It was a unique opportunity to be fully immersed in the culture because the daily life of Spaniards is very different than that of a college student at Penn State. At first it may be intimidating to move to a new country where you’ve never been before; however, after living the culture for four months it was hard for me to return to the US because I grew accustomed to the different meal times and speaking Spanish regularly. I hope to return to Spain soon!

How did this experience impact you academically?

As an Economics and Spanish concurrent major, this study abroad program fulfilled a large portion of my Spanish major requirement. There are a variety of course offerings ranging from business to translation to literature to linguistics, all of which are taught exclusively in Spanish. We had the chance to develop close relationships with our professors, who instructed us in much more than just course material. There was also the chance to enroll in an intercambio program, where we could regularly meet with a Spanish student learning English and practice our foreign languages. This was a great opportunity to get to know locals.

 I really enjoyed the opportunity to perfect my speaking abilities and believe that this program was a major step toward achieving fluency in Spanish. 

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

The most important part of this program to me was the total Spanish immersion. While learning a language in a classroom is essential to establish the foundations like vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, immersion allows for application of classroom knowledge. I really enjoyed the opportunity to perfect my speaking abilities and believe that this program was a major step toward achieving fluency in Spanish. Living with a Spanish host family was also something that I could not have experienced at my home university. Overall, while learning a language is no easy task I hope to one day attain near-native fluency and this was a huge milestone in that journey.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would highly recommend that other college students study abroad because it is a unique opportunity to improve language skills, travel around Europe and live another culture.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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