Spanish Study Abroad Interrupted by the Coronavirus

by Siya Patel, Features Section Editor
photo contributed by Danya Goldstein

When she was studying abroad in Spain, junior Danya Goldstein spent every Wednesday outside of the classroom. She said a highlight of her stay was learning how to make wine while visiting a vineyard.

“We would stomp on grapes with each other and drink grape juice,” she said. “It was really fun.”

This fall, Goldstein traveled to Spain with the School Year Abroad (SYA) program, which leads year-long study abroad programs for high schoolers in countries including Spain, France, Italy and China. Unfortunately, Goldstein was forced to return home two months earlier due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite the abridged length, Goldstein said her experience changed her.

“It was amazing. I was able to meet people from all over the world. I now have friends all over America and all over Spain,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself, a lot about the people around me, and I was able to grow into the person that I’ve always wanted to be.”

Goldstein said she instantly felt welcomed into the Spanish community.

“The community in Spain is very tight; they’re very kind to the elderly and young kids,” she said. “You’ll see numerous people on the street that you wave to and say hi, and it’s much more relaxed there.”

Although Goldstein attended an American school, she said it had a different environment than that of South.  

“All the students really care about their academics, and it’s not as competitive because kids really focus on their own education,” she said. “I got to learn a lot, and I was surrounded by really intelligent people … we were all a huge family.”

Goldstein said that the experience got progressively better as her Spanish fluency improved.  

“The first two months were the hardest two months. [I was] around a new group of people where I didn’t speak the language,” she said. “These kids turned into my best friends as I got more fluent, and I started to be able to make jokes and really show my personality in another language.”

Another highlight for Goldstein was traveling to Seville with her friends.

“My friends and I all went to the south of Spain together for a four-day weekend to a city called Seville, and it was amazing. We did a tour on horseback, had delicious food and had picnics on the beach,” she said. “It’s freeing being in the sun and being with just your friends at a hostel.”

Goldstein said the friendships she made were a highlight of the experience.  

“The most important things to me are friendships, relationships, happiness and laughter,” she said. “The kids I went with are my best friends. We were laughing the whole time.”

 Though she misses her friends from SYA, the most upsetting element of the abrupt ending was leaving her host family, whom she now FaceTimes daily. 

Goldstein found unparalleled self-growth and memories to cherish in Spain, she said.

“The experiences have taught me a lot, and I’m much more independent,” she said. “Now I’m more serious about the importance of caring for other people. I’m taking back [home] my best friends that I made there and my Spanish family that is actually my family now.”