I chose not to pursue a degree in Spanish while at UVA because I had always planned on studying abroad and working on my language in a foreign country. This plan seemed like a good idea until soon before my departure I realized I was about to take a semester worth of Spanish business classes without having taken a Spanish class in 3 years.
Though I was a bit concerned, I was more excited than anything else. I was lucky to have had an amazing AP Spanish teacher in high school where I learned a lot from the majority of the class who were native speakers. It was a fun challenge to see how much I remembered and how quickly it would all come back to me.
I had heard the hype about Semana Santa. I was warned. But no warning can completely compare you for Sevilla’s Semana Santa.
My parents came to visit me for my Spring Break last week, which in Spain is always the week before Easter. For a society that surprised me in their lack of religious intensity, the strong Catholic stereotype of southern Spain endures through their Semana Santa rituals. Say goodbye to the colorful egg hunts, the chocolate bunnies, and the marshmellow peeps. Say hello to extravagant processions with lifelike depictions of sufferening christs, exhausted groups of procession bearers who must balance and move these floats on their backs, and an endless line of men and woman dressed in traditional garb resembling what Americans think of as KKK outfits.
Este semestre, estoy trabajando para la empresa Novayre. La compañía fue fundada en 2007 con el objetivo de traer innovación al sector tecnología. Los fundadores son Victor Ayllon, el director general, y Juanma Reina, director de tecnología. Victor ha trabajado en sectores diversos como telecomunicaciones, finanzas, y eléctricos en mas de tres países, completando proyectos del desarrollo de tecnología. Juanma es un especialista en gestión de información. Con su objetivo de innovación, Victor y Juanma se usaban sus experiencias de más de 15 años en el sector TIC para crear Novayre, una consultoría solamente para el desarrollo de tecnología.
I almost dropped one of my classes at the beginning of the semester in fear that the Spanish language level was too difficult. I am happy to have stuck with it and taken on the challenge because I’ve probably learned more in my “Wine in Spain” class than any other this semester.
In just one month in Spain, I have gone through orientation, met tons of new people (both American and Spanish), finished a two week intensive Spanish course, finalized my class schedule for the semester, and visited four different Spanish towns/cities. Yet, the lens that I viewed all of that through changed after reading an assigned article last week in one of my classes. The title of the piece is “The View from the Veranda.” The writing compares American study abroad students to colonial settlers. Years ago, settlers left their home countries to move to new colonial lands. They sought the adventure and excitement of travel and a new land. However, most only experienced colonial life through the view from their verandas: they engaged with the colonies enough to enjoy the excitement of something new, but they brought the amenities of their home countries and never immersed themselves into the native culture at a level that would be uncomfortable. Though I had never though of travel abroad in this sense, I see the truth in it. American students studying abroad expect the conveniences of home (internet, their own room, hot water, classes structured in American form, classes with the same dates as American semesters, etc.), even when it may not be the norm of the host culture. I definitely fall victim to many of these demands, as I don’t believe I could truly give up ties with my life back in the US. However, my goal is to strike a balance in which I leave my comfort zone on a daily basis. So far, I have accomplished this through my classes, my internship, and my travels.
Who: After much back and forth about what kind of housing I should choose, I can now say that I made the right decision in doing a homestay. I live in a modest sized apartment in the Nervion neighborhood with a 68 year old madre and her 39 year old daughter and 30 year old son-in-law (here, it is normal for children to live with their parents for a long time). My biggest trepidation in choosing a homestay was the fear of losing my independence, but that has not been the case at all. I am free to come and go as much as I want, and to my surprise, it is completely normal for kids my age to come back at 4am or 6am from the discotecas… I often feel more judged for coming back early on a weekend night than for staying out that late! I eat all of my meals with the family, and since I speak English with most of my friends in the program, this is a great chance to practice Spanish and learn more about each other’s cultures. Though frustrating at times because my madre speaks so quickly, I like that she doesn’t know any English because it forces me to use my language skills more. The son-in-law often tries to practice his English at the dinner table with me, but my madre yells at him that I won’t learn Spanish that way.