One of the good things about being on the AP track is the insane number of classes it let me skip in college. I’m a first-semester freshman and I came in with 36 credits; I’ll be done with my Gen Eds this year, and I got to jump ahead to junior-level Spanish classes. Spanish is one of my majors, and if it were all I studied, I could be done in two years. That’s great, because it lets me double-major with minimal stress, but it’s also terrifying, because it means studying abroad isn’t just a blip on the horizon. It’s a distinct event that has to be planned now. On my Spanish track, I’ll be able to take a semester abroad by Spring 2017. And since I’m a debater and competitions are only in the US, I’ll be too busy going to Nationals in junior and senior year to take a semester off.
I’m a planner, so I’m already looking at all the possible options for my semester. It has to be in a Spanish-speaking country that’s relatively cheap, and it can’t be one where the locals are likely to know English. Spain is right out; it’s got the Euro and tons of Europeans know English, plus I never learned to conjugate “vosotros.” My best option seemed to be an exchange program in Peru, until I ran into the OU in Puebla booth at the study abroad fair.
I’ve knocked OU’s foreign centers in the past; they’re an easy way to stick with OU students on OU property, learning from OU teachers in English, and not really connect with locals. I’ve talked with plenty of Arezzo alumni who don’t know a lick of Italian. But what drew me to Puebla is the homestay option. Most study abroad programs either leave housing arrangements up to the students or stick them in a dorm specific to foreigners, so that you live with and socialize with largely English speakers. But living with a local family gives you constant exposure to the language and culture. It’s a great way to pick up colloquialisms and truly connect with the country.