For Sasha Seroy, the chance to participate in Stony Brook’s Study Abroad/Short-Term Program was a way to get in touch with her maternal lineage.
“My mother is Cuban, but I’m not fluent in Spanish,” said Seroy. “Going to Spain was a great way for me to practice my Spanish and learn more about the language.”
Seroy took part in the summer study abroad program that paired her with a Spanish family in Alcala, a city roughly a half-hour from Madrid.
“I was easily able to immerse myself in the culture just by spending time with my family,” she said. “I learned a lot about Spanish food, my host mother even taught me how to make a Spanish tortilla and gave me her recipes to take back home with me. I also traveled around the country with my friends on our days off from school. We went to Seville, Cordoba, Barcelona, Toledo, Segovia, and Madrid. I saw a traditional flamenco show and a bullfight. I also really enjoyed visiting the great museums in Madrid. I stood in front of Picasso’s Guernica for more than 15 minutes, it was so captivating.”
Seroy said that she tried to speak only Spanish to her host family, local people, and even fellow students. “Sometimes it was frustrating if I couldn’t say something that I wanted to say. My Spanish family, however, was very patient with me and tried to speak slowly and explain things that I didn’t understand.”
Not limiting herself to an academic learning experience but immersing herself in the Spanish culture instead proved to be a valuable learning tool. “When I got to Spain, I realized that although I did learn a lot in my classes, most of the things that stuck with me were experiences outside the classroom.”
Predictably, her confidence grew as she moved outside the realm of textbooks and university walls. “My experience has given me a better sense of independence,” Seroy said. “I am also more eager to travel now as opposed to before when I was a little hesitant about going overseas and experiencing new cultures.”
The experience has moved her to spread the word among her fellow students. “Upon returning to Stony Brook, I was recruited by the International Academic Programs office to be an intern and promote study abroad and foreign exchange programs. I handed out brochures and talked to students who expressed an interest in going abroad. My roommate is even going to Korea next semester.”