Isabella’s ISE Experience in Spain

Pope Luna's Castle, Valencia, Spain
Isabella with Host Family in Spain Holding Welcome Sign

By Isabella

My Academic Year in Spain
The day the best year of my life started. My name is Isabella Spain, and I spent my 23-24 academic year in Valencia, Spain. A year before I started this process, I knew I wanted to be an exchange student, to try new food, hear new music, improve my Spanish skills, meet new people, and learn about a new culture.

Many people asked me why I wanted to come to Spain. There’s two reasons. First, my last name is Spain, so when I was deciding where I’d want to go, the choice was clear and second, it was a dream of mine to be able to live in the same city my father did when he was an exchange student, Valencia. When we started this process, never in a million years did I think a host family from my dream city would pick me, but somehow I got extremely lucky.

I was welcomed at the airport with open arms and big smiles by the amazing people I get to call my host family. I had my first Spaniard dinner with some tortilla de patata, jamon serrano, fuet, chees and grapes. There was a bittersweet feeling of knowing I wouldn’t see family or friends for a year, but the excitement I felt the second I landed beat it 1,000 times. My adventure was just beginning.

Since my adventure in Spain has begun, I’ve traveled with my host family to a beach town called Denia, Madrid and Granada. It would be an understatement to say the architecture here in Spain is beautiful; it has simply left me in awe. My family and I have gotten into our routine and I have been loving my life here. I was nervous at first about how hard it could be to integrate myself with everyone in school, but everyone has been so welcoming and friendly. School can be challenging at times and sometimes it can be frustrating not understanding the simple things because it’s in another language, but people have supported me the entire time.

We spent Christmas in Madrid with my host Grandma and she made the best fish I ever had. The city was lit up with beautiful lights and you could hear people singing.

My host sister and I signed up at the same gym as my host mom. We’ve been learning pilates and working up our strength in more cardio-related workout classes. My host family has been my biggest supporters. The relationship and connection I have with them has filled my heart with so much love. During the week, we go for walks, watch soccer, work out, and they help me with whatever doubts I have in school. On weekends, we explore the city, watch my host brother’s soccer game and enjoy the food my host dad loves to cook, my favorite being a dish called arroz al horno.

Isabella in Spain - Host Dad's Arroz al Horno Dish

As I’m leading up to my last stretch of this exchange year, I can’t help but just feel extremely grateful. The sun has started coming out and it gets hot here! Now my family and I have an excuse to go to the beach and pool every weekend. I was able to attend the end-of-year camp with my school. It was a three-day camp in a beach town not too far from Valencia and we had a blast. The first day we all hiked what felt like forever. Even though my feet were constantly in pain, the views we were seeing were beautiful. The second day was all on the beach. There were kayaks, paddleboards, beach volleyball and other activities. We all made sure to put as much sunscreen on as we could, but we all got burned equally.

As I’m coming close to the end of my experience, I can not stress enough that if you are thinking of doing an exchange year, do it. It is true that it’s not for everyone, but my life has forever been changed after this experience. You will try new food, hear new music, improve your language skills, meet new people and learn about a new culture.

We invite you to read more about becoming an exchange student and our study abroad programs. To find out even more about different available options, complete our Travel & Study Abroad interest form and our program coordinator will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

Please note that ISE now offers study abroad scholarships to our host families’ kids. Check out our host family section of the website to learn more about other benefits of hosting an exchange student.


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