Name: Hallie Nudelman
Type of Project: Study Abroad
1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
Over the summer I participated in a study abroad program in Toledo, Spain where I took classes on Art and Culture in Spanish. In addition to the educational aspects of the program I was able to travel to different regions in Spain as well as visit England and Hungary.
2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
Before I had left for Spain, I felt that I would not encounter many cultural differences. While Spain was an ocean away, it seemed to me that nowadays most European countries operated a lot like America. But even though siestas may be being phased out, there is still a very different lifestyle and perspective between the two countries. I think that before I became immersed in the Spanish lifestyle, I was a very rigid person with a set schedule and a set goals. While I would not say that has changed drastically, I have become more aware that there are many different lifestyles, and that a best one does not exist. Here in America, there is almost an unspoken checklist that each person must complete as they advance through the stages of life, such as graduation, a job, marriage, etc. I found through conversing with Spaniards during my travels that this ‘checklist’ is not as prevalent in other parts of the world. I think that this realization has been very reassuring and almost liberating as the pressures of school and a job search become more prevalent foci of my life.
In addition, I have improved tremendously in my Spanish speaking abilities. Before I left for Spain I had taken 7 years of classes. While I have obviously improved since the 8th grade, it is very hard to have everyday conversations when your only knowledge of a language comes from a textbook. Culturally, I did not have a difficult time adjusting, however the language was something I had to get used to. From the second I stepped off the plane I had to speak completely in Spanish to do even mundane tasks like order coffee. Over time it became easier to approach people and get over the insecurity I had felt about my Spanish abilities.
3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
I think that the most helpful aspect of my program was just having to communicate with everyone around me in Spanish. It forced me to exit my comfort zone and learn colloquialisms that assisted me in having more natural conversations than the stunted and formal language that I had been taught in school would have permitted me to. Over time I was able to form relationships with some of the people that I saw every day, such as some of the workers at the school or the owners of my favorite coffee shops. I Eventually, I began to be a Toledana.
The academic component was also an enormous help in completing my Spanish major. There is an immersion requirement component to my major that this program fulfilled. I took two art and architecture classes that were immensely helpful in understanding the historic monuments that surrounded us. I also took a culture class that was invaluable in understanding the political, economic, and social problems that Spain faces today. The firsthand account of culture from a Spaniard were invaluable as well. These classes have both helped me in my major, and have helped me to better understand Spanish culture and how it developed.
Lastly, all of the traveling we did both en route to Toledo and during the program have made me much more confident in my ability to travel and navigate foreign places by myself. Every weekend was a new adventure, and I became very proficient in navigating transportation and foreign cities. Being able to travel to different parts of Spain and different countries also allowed me to compare and contrast the different ways of life and left a lasting impression on me. In the future I would love to continue my travels both within Spain and to other countries.
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
The primary goal that I had for my study abroad experience was to become a more natural Spanish speaker. That goal was definitely achieved. Going forward, I would like to pursue a career in public health or in healthcare, and with the ever expanding Latino population in the US, it is imperative to be able to speak Spanish for easier and more efficient treatment. In addition to language abilities, cultural sensitivity is also extremely important in working with diverse populations. I think that this trip helped me to be more aware of cultural differences that exist in the world, and that not every society functions in the same way that we do in the United States. This trip was definitely one of my favorite experiences I have had while in college, and something that I will continue to look at as an amazing experience for the rest of my life.