Albion College women's lacrosse defender Makenzie Frederickson is in the middle of a study abroad experience at the University of Alicante in Spain.
In addition to her studies in Spain, Frederickson has taken advantage of the opportunity to travel to England, Poland and Norway, and trips to Germany and Ireland are scheduled before she returns to the United States at the end of December.
A three-time Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Honor Roll student, the senior from Lowell, Mich., who is majoring in Spanish and accounting, checked in via e-mail to describe her experience.
Why did you want this study abroad experience?
"I hope to be able to use my Spanish skills in my future job, and I knew that studying abroad would be the only way to increase my fluidity while speaking and become more comfortable with Spanish. I wanted to be able to learn more about the culture of a different country. I think there is so much perspective that you can gain from living in a different place and being immersed in a different culture, and I wanted to be able to have that experience.
"I live with a host family. My host parents are retired and have five grandkids. I spend a lot of time with the grand kids; I also tutor three children in English. I have an intercambio, which is basically a speaking exchange program where I spend time with a Spanish student and help her with English, and she helps me with Spanish. I travel often, and spend a lot of time with my new friends here.
"I did not expect that I would gain another family here in Spain. My host parents welcomed me into their large family. They take me on day trips to visit new towns. I spend time with all of the grandkids. My host mom found out that I like chocolate croissants, and now she buys chocolate croissants for me often. Now my host dad asks me every night if I had chocolate yet that day. I thought that it would be awkward to live with new people, but it has turned out to be a part of what has made my experience abroad so great. My host family wants me to learn about the culture here and loves talking to me. They give me recommendations for places to visit in the city, and they take me on trips with them. They help me to feel comfortable and at home here in Alicante."
What is something that has challenged you?
"My first week, I could hardly understand my host dad. He spoke so fast, and didn't ever stop talking. I was scared to say that I didn't understand what he was talking about. My favorite response was 'sí' although sometimes that did not work out so well because it was a question not just a story. While the first couple of weeks were very difficult, I slowly became accustomed to the fast speaking Spanish accent. Now I can understand almost everything that my host family talks about, and I'm not scared to ask questions if I don't understand. I have even started to be able to understand the television in Spanish which felt like a big accomplishment.
"Learning the vosotros form of Spanish has also been quite the learning curve. It's a tense of the verb/subject that is only used in Spain, and all through school my teachers and professors told us we wouldn't need to learn the vosotros form unless we go to Spain. My host family and professors here have had to correct me a lot, but it has been interesting to learn."
What is an aspect of the experience you especially like?
"I love living in the center of the city, and I love my host family. This is the first time that I have ever lived in a city, so it was a big change. I have found that I really like it, and although it's bigger than what I am used to, I have started to feel at home here. Alicante is a city with many things to do which I love. It is right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. My first month here, I went to the beach every day after classes. There are also two castles within the city, and I enjoy visiting and exploring them."
What is an interesting thing you have learned?
"I live with people that only speak Spanish, so naturally at times there is a language barrier. I have really learned how to be able to improvise and use other words to describe what I am trying to talk about. It is much different than any Spanish class that I have taken in the United States, because in those classes, if you don't know a word or someone doesn't understand you, you can just repeat yourself in English. Here I am totally immersed in Spanish, and I can't just use English when things get difficult. It has been amazing in helping me to advance my Spanish vocabulary.
"I have learned how to go with the flow. I have a group of friends that I spend a lot of time with, and we make a lot of travel plans together — on day trips around the city and also to other countries. Everyone has different ideas on how to travel, where to go, the best places to see, and things to do. This experience has helped me to learn how to just go with the flow. I don't have to be in charge of the situation. I can just tag along, and I know that I will enjoy whatever activity we end up doing or sight that we end up seeing."
Can you provide a story about everyday life that's different?
"One of the biggest changes for me was public transportation. Every day I have a 30 minute tram ride to the university and 30 minutes back. At Albion, I can walk almost everywhere I need to go. I had never used public transportation very often before, and now I take the tram every day and can use the city bus system with ease. I even used the bus system when I visited Poland. It was something that took some getting used to, but I enjoy using public transportation and walking everywhere now.
How does a study abroad experience support your educational goals?
"Being immersed in a new culture is an amazing way to learn more about yourself, others, and gain perspective. I have been able to drastically improve my Spanish skills, as well as learn about another culture. I have met people from all over the world. Studying abroad was the best way for me to attain my education goals at Albion. I know have much more confidence in my ability to communicate in Spanish. On top of being able to speak Spanish better, the experience abroad has taught me a lot about myself, my culture, and the Spanish culture.
"My program is a smaller program with only 15 students, but that has allowed me to make some great relationships here. My program directors are awesome, and show us all a lot of support. I travel with other students from my program, and sometimes with our intercambio speaking partners as well. Almost every week our program has a different activity to help us get to know the city better. This week we took a trip to see the refuges in the city of Alicante. We have visited all of the main museums in the city and took a historical tour and saw all of the churches, cathedrals and historical buildings. We took a visit to the castle in the city and learned more about the history. We also have activities with our speaking partners where we get ice cream or go bowling. One of our activities was "nautical activities" and I was able to try wind surfing, paddle boarding, and kayaking in the Mediterranean Sea."
Do you have any unusual stories?
"My intercambio plays lacrosse for the university here, so I have been able to practice lacrosse with her.
"I am involved in a tutoring program for English. I tutor three different families once a week and help their children practice their English skills. This has been quite a rewarding experience, and always brings something new. During one of my tutoring sessions this week, I made slime with the two girls."
Click here for a gallery of photographs from Frederick's study abroad experience
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