Ben Folkmann (Spanish major) spent summer 2013 studying in Valencia, Spain as part of the ISU on the Mediterranean study abroad program. The 6-week program features homestays with a Spanish family, guided excursions to historical sites, and coursework in both Spanish and English, including biology lab work and fieldwork, internships, as well as specific lecturers by University of Valencia faculty. This unique combination of English and Spanish course offerings and applied research training has yielded the largest study abroad program at Iowa State. This was Ben’s first trip to Europe. Below he shares some memories from the trip.
How did you decide to go to Valencia?
I decided to study abroad in Valencia because I always wanted to see Spain and the rest of Europe. I also had a few friends participate in previous summers and they highly recommended this program. Another reason was that I wanted to participate in a program that had a large number of students because I like meeting and interacting with new people.
What was your first impression of Valencia?
My first impression of Valencia was very positive; I immediately had a great feeling about the city and the people there. I was also feeling a sense of awe, just because I never thought I would have the chance to be in a European country. After a while, my impression of Valencia changed—in a positive way: I began to feel very at home in the city and with my host family.
What do you think was the program’s greatest impact on you?
The Valencia program’s greatest impact on me was related to my personal growth. I improved so much my Spanish speaking abilities, as well as increased knowledge about the Spanish culture, like the different holidays and festivals celebrated. The program also greatly increased my self-confidence and made me a much more outgoing individual.
Looking back at your trip, could you share some of the most exciting experiences?
I get asked this question a lot and I can never choose the most exciting part of the Valencia program—I really enjoyed the entire experience! If I had to choose, my favorite parts would probably be living with my host family, the various excursions to historical sites, and making many new friends. The entire program was very exciting and an amazing life changing experience! I’m very happy I had the opportunity to participate in this awesome program!