Madrid: The experience of a lifetime

Ashley Chapman wasn't sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, so when she got to college in Albany she went in as "undecided."

Then in her sophomore year at the University at Albany, things changed for the Skaneateles native.

"I understood Spanish pretty well, it was easy for me to pick up, and I like the idea of being a teacher, so I declared myself that year as a Spanish language major and education minor," Ashley said.

In order to be fluent in the language, or at the very least speak it better, she wanted to put herself in a situation where she would have to use Spanish nearly all the time. And that's how she ended up in Spain this fall as a student at Instituto Internacional in Madrid.

Being in the midst of a culture that pervades most things that a person does while in Spain, Ashley, 21, has been soaking up the sights and learning as she goes. She's currently staying with a host family, which puts her right in the thick of Spanish living.

"I am loving Spain. I'm a big family person, though, so being away from them is starting to get hard, but in November I'm traveling a lot and I know it's going to be amazing and then when I'm done with that I am coming home," she said.

When in Albany, Ashley talks to her family every day. Without a telephone in Spain, she and her dad, Terry, and her three siblings have resorted to using Skype -- a free telephone service used through the Internet -- to talk once a week on Sundays. Throughout the week they must rely on email to keep in touch.

"It's been hard for them, too. My sister was almost in tears when she said bye to me," she said. "I talk to my family almost every day on the phone, so not being able to talk them has been hard on all of us."

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