In 2014, AIFS alum Landon Sanford flew from the United States to Salamanca, Spain to study abroad for a semester. After experiencing all that Spain and Europe had to offer, he flew home with a newfound appreciation for travel and culture, as well as a new career trajectory. We spoke with him about his time abroad and how it changed his life. Check out what he had to say.
How has your study abroad experience impacted your educational goals and career (including your current job, if applicable)?
My study abroad experience completely changed the trajectory of my life! Specifically, it changed my career direction: before studying abroad I was on the finance track and had completed a summer internship on Wall Street, but afterwards I focused on international studies and travel. I changed my major when I came back from Spain and my senior thesis was international-focused. Since graduating from college last year, I have been working on the startup I am in the process of launching, which is focused on study abroad and travel. It allows new study abroad students to see the recommendations and favorite places of past students who studied there.
How has your study abroad experience impacted other areas of your life?
The other main way study abroad impacted my life was in getting me “bitten by the travel bug.” I traveled to an incredible 16 countries during my semester abroad and have truly loved traveling and exploring since then. I’ve even traveled to places like Sudan and St. Petersburg, Russia since my abroad semester. I now even blog about my travels. In addition, my study abroad experience with AIFS also began my love of language: I became fluent in Spanish while abroad and have been learning the Russian the past year.
Have you been back to your study abroad location since your time abroad?
No, I have not returned but hope to soon.
Are you still in contact with other students or anyone you met during your time abroad?
I have written letters with my host family and hope to visit them again soon, and I also keep in touch with a close group of 5 abroad friends who I met and became close with while abroad. I have also keep in touch with a pastor I met with in Spain and met up with him in South Carolina last year, and have kept in touch with two students from Mexico.
Are there any activities or traditions from your time abroad that you have continued back in the US?
Traveling is one activity I have continued, as well as listening to good Spanish music.
What are your top destinations for future travel?
Any advice for students who are considering studying abroad?
Studying abroad is the best semester of college! It truly is the one time in your life when you can easily experience another culture, language, and part of the world. So my first recommendation would be to just go abroad, because it is the biggest regret of college from students who don’t do it. Aside from that, my recommendation would be to pick a smaller city where you can truly experience the culture and language, unlike some of the bigger cities that are a little more Americanized.
Any advice for recently returned study abroad students?
For returned study abroad students, my advice would be to try to practice the language monthly if you learned a language abroad, because it can fade quickly if you don’t practice or listen to things in that language. I’d also recommend making a compiled video, photo album, or journal entry of your time abroad so you can better remember some of your incredible experiences.