Abigail Kimball graduated from Tulsa University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in Spanish. She arrived in Tulsa in 2017 from Fort Worth, TX as a track athlete, but soon realized that the track was not her passion. After completing a Spanish course for beginners, Kimball got involved with the Spanish club TU, La Tertulia. She became a regular at their meetings, helping with homework and organizing club chores. Abigail also participated in RUF Campus Ministry.
During the spring semester of her freshman year, Kimball traveled to Madrid, Spain, as part of a study abroad program with the International education services (IES abroad). After only two months abroad, however, the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm and she had to return to the United States. This fall, Kimball will return to Madrid this year for an internship with Believed, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. Before Kimball embarked on this international adventure, we had the opportunity to chat with her to learn a little more about her study abroad experience in Spain, how her studies at TU had prepared her. to excel and what are his hopes for the next stay.
Where in Spain did you study? Where have you all visited?
I studied in Madrid. When I first considered studying abroad in Spain or Latin America, I first avoided the idea of ââMadrid since everyone goes there. But a friend told me about a Spanish speaking church in Madrid that sounded interesting. After praying and deliberating, I decided that Madrid was the best option for me. I was there from January to March 2020 until COVID-19 happened.
I also visited Segovia, which is a small village an hour from Madrid and Toledo, another small town. I also went to Caceres in eastern Spain, near the border with Portugal. One weekend, I went to Paris. Unfortunately, as I was sent home earlier, I was unable to make it to many of the places I had planned to visit.
What were your favorite places that you visited in Spain?
In Madrid there is a park called El Retiro which looks like Central Park in New York. It’s like the central park of Madrid. Loved going there after school to journal and watch the sunset. El Palacio Royale, the royal palace of Madrid, had a belvedere to admire the sunset. I am a huge person at sunset! Toledo was also beautiful. There was a photo of Toledo in one of my Spanish classes at TU, so it was surreal to be there.
How were you able to apply what you learned from your Spanish minor to your visit to Spain?
I entered TU with a solid base of beginner and intermediate Spanish knowledge. I took conversation and composition classes and had so much practice conversing in Spanish. I felt I had the grammar mastered and just needed the experience of speaking the language with locals. I went to Madrid knowing that if I got anything out of this trip it would improve my Spanish skills.
It was easy to fall into a comfort zone of speaking English because it was easier, but I knew that I had all the tools to speak Spanish effectively and that I just needed to get started with some things. situations where I could practice. I also lived with a Spanish host family, so I made the effort to get to know her by spending time with her, either watching TV or having meals together. I also made a conscious effort to get involved in a Spanish speaking church and joined a Bible study group to put myself in situations where I had to speak Spanish no matter how uncomfortable and fair it was. to overcome my mistakes.
But I didn’t realize how well I knew Spanish until I arrived in Spain! I think TU’s curriculum prepared me for the balance between conversation and grammar. Although the lessons can be difficult, I was able to learn so much. Something that got me excited when I first learned Spanish at TU was the speed at which I was learning and progressing – it motivated me to keep going. When I was in Spain I knew I had a lot to learn, but I was excited to look for opportunities to get out of my comfort zone.
What was it like to be sent home at the start of the pandemic?
It was really tough, because the two month mark is where you really start to pick up your pace. I felt more comfortable in Spain and really enjoyed my routine. To see it all fall apart and have to leave so abruptly was heartbreaking. It was hard not being able to say goodbye to my study abroad friends and church friends. There was so much build-up in the trip and being sent home was such a loss.
It all happened so fast. Seeing the city closed was also disappointing. I remember walking down the street and seeing neither cars nor people, it was silent. It was not the Madrid I knew. I had to complete my study abroad program online, but I was still able to stay in touch with my host family and the friends I made in Madrid.
Where in Spain are you going to do your internship? What business / what will you do?
I’m going back to Madrid, which I’m really excited about. I’m going with a missionary organization called CRU, officially known as Campus Crusade for Christ. I will be an international intern and work on a university campus in Madrid, getting to know the students and helping the ministry.
There are a variety of organizations that students can get involved in, such as English clubs, art clubs, movie nights, picnics and more. I will lead a team of three other girls, live in the city and be friends with the students there. I will be there for a year, and after this year I will assess if I want to do another year as an intern.
What do you hope to accomplish on this visit to Spain that you couldn’t do the last time?
With my job, I will not have the same freedoms that I had as a student abroad to travel every weekend, but I hope to visit some of the places that I was not able to visit after been sent home for Covid, like like Barcelona, ââValencia and Alicante.
I also had a hard time trying new foods when I was in Spain, so this time around I want to immerse myself more in their food culture and not just eat pancakes for brunch. I want to honor Spanish cuisine!
What advice would you give to a student wishing to study abroad?
I suggest going with a defined set of goals. Evaluate what you want to prioritize while you are abroad. For me that meant not taking all the excursions possible and going out into the community to meet people and practice speaking. Spanish. It ended up being worth it. I think it’s important to prioritize getting to know the people in your country, whether through a specific program or through your host family. Building relationships that last after I’m gone was important. I recommend resisting the urge to be only with Americans and make an effort to get to know people in your community. For me it was church and living with my seÃ±ora.
Also, go with reasonable expectations. I left fantasizing about studying abroad, thinking I was going to find out all about myself and have the best time of my life. While this may be true, there is a period of adjustment in the first month or two that can be difficult to navigate. You may be in shock thinking that everything is supposed to be perfect, but the transition can feel lonely. You need to make new friends in a new culture that doesn’t speak your native language. Give yourself the grace to navigate your new life!
Are there any classes, professors or staff that have been particularly inspiring and helpful during your time at TU?
It’s hard to identify a course because I liked them all. They were all difficult and they all instilled a sense of confidence in me.
Start Spanish with Professor Chamarro was an influential course. She helped me believe that learning the Spanish language was possible. that of Professor Garmy the lessons were difficult, but the grammar lessons she gave me got me in shape. Professor Willis was so invested in giving us feedback and getting involved in the conversation. I never got bored in his class because we were constantly interacting.
Are you eager to spread your wings while learning in another country? If so, collect your passport and contact the Center for Global Engagement today!
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