The Global May Spain program has been one of the best experiences of my life thus far. This past summer I traveled to Madrid and various other locations throughout Spain. We took part in a lot of different cultural activities along with learning about the culture and history in the classroom itself. I feel that this program has really helped me to grow individually and collectively with my group. Although on the surface the program looks like a series of never ending walking tours, in reality it is a cultural immersion like non other than I have experienced before. Being able to live in the same city for almost a whole entire month, wiped away the glamour of the touristy things and allowed us to see the city as more locals. Towards the end of the program, we were able to navigate the metro like pros and went on numerous excursions to explore the city.
This is a beautiful, panoramic view of Toledo, Spain!
For a while the language barrier was an issue for me to adapt to. However, you learn to pick up on body language and context clues to be able to effectively communicate in Spain. For example, when we visited the Museo de Ejercito in Toledo, a woman approached me and began speaking. However, I did not comprehend what she had been saying so I panicked and turned to another girl in the program for help. Upon watching the girl and this woman interact, I learned that she had been asking what a certain part of the museum was and if I had paid attention to her body language, I would have understood that. After this scenario, I began paying closer attention to nonverbal cues of communication to aid with my understanding of the verbal words. This really increased my comprehension and helped me to survive in Spain.
In the United States, the language barrier is very seldom an issue that I have run into. Most people that I have interacted with in the States has either fluently spoken English or had some understanding of the language that we could communicate. However, for the few times that I will experienced this issue I feel that I have a new found understanding of what it is like to feel so helpless. I work in a residence hall that has a high population of international students and the language barrier is often an issue. Because of my experiences in Spain, I have become more patient and pay more attention to body language as well.
Another change, I noticed in my experience with Spain is the eating customs. In Spain, Madrid in particular, the days are longer and slower and meal times are more spread out during the day. Lunch, being the most valued meal of the day, is around 2 pm and dinner is around 9pm. In addition, people often go out for tapas and drinks after work before they go home and make dinner. This is very different compared to the United States, for lunch is around noon and dinner is anywhere from 5 to 7pm, depending on your own individual schedule. In general, people in Spain seem to value their time with peers and family while they are eating. This is something that I took home with me and I take the time to sit and eat rather than grabbing food and running out the door. I learned that it is okay to sometimes sit and take the world in versus being always on the go, which is common in our culture.
These are some of the tapas we enjoyed together as a group.
In addition, this experience helped me take a lot of risks both physically and mentally. Being immersed in a different culture and language allowed for me to work on overcoming those anxieties I had going into the program. Also the wonderful peers that went on this trip with me were always there as a comfort and guide, if it was needed. After studying abroad in Spain, I have found myself being much more social with other students in the university both that were in the program and others who were not. The trip really expanded my horizons and allowed me to open myself up socially and emotionally to others. One particular time during the trip in Santander, a group of us went climbing on some rocks along the ocean side. This part of the trip I feel was a pivotal point, for it felt very freeing to take such a physical risk that I never had before. It also allowed me to take other risks in my life and be more open to life in general.
This is the view from the cliffs that we climbed in Santander.
Overall, I feel like exposure to all these similarities and differences between the different countries, has added a new dimension to my academic experience. Being a psychology major, my study is predominantly focused around studying people and their habits and seeing a new culture has helped to broaden that horizon. As I mentioned earlier, I pay much more attention to people’s body language when communicating and observe that from a psychology point of view to understand the message they are trying to convey. The differing food schedule’s has taught me that different cultures value different aspects of their lives over others and that is an important thing to note when dealing with a diverse population of people within the world. However, the experience has also taught me that despite these differences, people are essentially all connected for we all have an understanding of universal messages. In conclusion, traveling to the different parts of Spain has allowed me to see different aspects of the culture of Spain and compare it to the culture I have grown up in, in a way that adds to my academic experience at The Ohio State University.
These are some of the great people I met on the trip as we enjoyed watching a soccer game together!