Boarding the plane back in August, I felt a wide range of emotions. I had wanted to study abroad since senior year of high school and that dream was finally coming true. My STEP project this past semester was a semester long exchange offered by the Fisher College of Business at a university in Madrid, Spain. In Madrid, I attended Comillas Pontifical University, where I took business classes with students from all over the world. In addition to my classes, I lived in a homestay where I practiced using the Spanish language daily and experienced the cultural immersion that comes with living in a homestay.
In the past few weeks, I have been able to reflect on my experience in Spain. The biggest transformation that I feel I experienced is in regards to my language abilities. Before my semester abroad, I felt like I had a strong academic grasp of Spanish. Now after my 4 months living immersed in a Spanish speaking country, I am amazed at how much my language abilities have improved. I now feel confident using the language. The benefits of having a second language are wide-reaching in the business world, and I am excited to see what opportunities present themselves as I progress into my professional career.
Without a doubt, the experiences of my STEP project directly contributed to this transformation. To start, living in a homestay exposed me to daily opportunities to practice the language. Each night, my housemates and I spoke Spanish with our host mother during dinner. These meals provided me a wonderful environment to practice speaking Spanish which was instrumental to improving my language skills.
Secondly, by partaking in a education abroad experience in a Spanish speaking country, I was required to use Spanish outside of my homestay in every day interactions around Madrid. Whether it was ordering coffee at a corner cafe or helping someone out on the street with directions, I found my self speaking Spanish with friends and strangers alike. All these interactions on their own were not entirely significant, but together they helped contribute to my overall confidence in using the language.
This change in my language abilities will have great impacts on my professional goals. As a business student, I desire to work globally in some function during my career. Whether that may be working from the US for a company with global reach or even as far as working abroad on an assignment, possessing a second language will be instrumental in achieving that goal. Although English is the global language of business, having the ability to communicate in the native language of the country in which you are doing business goes a long way in building relationships—and great relationships are critical to success in business!
Knowing a second language also has benefits far beyond simply communicating in a different way. For example, you learn how to step outside of your comfort zone; speaking to a native speaker in their native language can be stressful! The benefit in this example is that now when I feel like I am outside of my comfort zone, I think back to my experiences during my semester abroad and realize I am fully capable of thriving outside of my element.
As I settled back into the routine at Ohio State, I had lots of time to reflect on last semester. I will forever cherish my experience abroad, and appreciate how STEP helped me guide my efforts in making this experience as wonderful as it was.
— Danny Rodgers