EF Stories: Laura from Spain at EF Santa Barbara
Hello, I'm Laura González, and I'm 21 years old. Currently, I'm studying Primary Education in the bilingual program at a university in Madrid, Spain.
I embarked on a Gap Year to Santa Barbara, California, when I was only 17 years old. It was a tough decision as I had never been so far away from home on my own for such a long time. However, it turned out to be the best decision of my life. I chose to take a gap year because after finishing my 2nd year of high school, I wasn't sure about what I wanted to study. I knew that regardless of my future path, English would be a fundamental part of it. Since I wasn't certain, I decided to take the plunge into this adventure to discover myself and find my vocation, all while taking the opportunity to study English along the way.
Before leaving, I remember feeling nervous. I was excited, but at the same time, I was afraid because I didn't know what to expect there. I wasn't sure if the host family would welcome me, if my roommate would be someone I'd get along with, or if my classmates would be friendly. I was a bit confused. I feared not fitting in, but I also knew it was normal - it's a fear everyone tends to have when facing something so new and significant.
When I arrived, they welcomed me so warmly that I think I couldn't have been luckier. At first, I felt disoriented; it didn't feel like my place. But because the majority of people were in the same situation, we all could help and understand each other, making communication and coexistence much easier. My roommate became like a little sister to me, the host family became a great support, and my classmates turned into friends.
English was a crucial aspect of the journey. I managed to obtain the Advanced Certificate (C1) after my year abroad, and thanks to that, I'm now studying my degree with relative ease in a bilingual program. Additionally, I secured a spot for an Erasmus program in Finland, and today, I'm very proud of my English proficiency level. Progressing to a new course every 6 weeks and taking intensive courses to prepare for the Advanced exam were pivotal in gradually improving my English.
But my Gap Year wasn't just about learning English. Learning English can be done in Spain, but what I did can only be lived through a Gap Year. My year abroad has given me international friendships, a family on another continent, work experience (I volunteered at various events throughout the year), the freedom to travel, independence, initiative, and maturity.
Without a doubt, I will miss the environment in which I was able to experience all of this: the family, the friends, and the experience of living a year abroad while learning a language, a culture, and customs. All of this has enriched me, and I can say that I am incredibly proud of making that decision. Thanks to it, I discovered my vocation for education (I volunteered with an organization that helped children with extracurricular activities).
Based on my personal experience, I highly recommend this fantastic journey. I recommend it because I believe that after completing the 2nd year of high school, it's not necessary to immediately start a degree if you're not ready. Sometimes, one needs to take their time to be sure about choosing the career they want to pursue. And, I want to emphasize that this is not a wasted year; it's a year gained in many other aspects, one you undoubtedly never regret.
Laura Gonzalez Osuna (Academic Year Exam in Santa Barbara)