1. My STEP signature project wasa 6 week education abroad in Toledo, Spain. I took two courses in Spanish (architecture and anthropology) and stayed with a host family. The school I studied at, sponsored by Fundacion Jose Ortega y Gasset, was an institute for foreign students to immerse in the language and culture.
2. Before I left for Spain, I expected Spain to be a completely different world. I expected to face extreme culture shock and struggle every day to perform day to day functions. This ended up not being the case. Of course, the first few days I was there things seemed different (the diet, language, and schedules are very different), but after a few days I started to realize that a lot of things were very much the same. At first, it was weird to hear when older people spoke Spanish (of course they speak Spanish!) It was “cute” to hear little kids talking in Spanish. But after a while, I figured out that everything is the same. They speak a different language, and they do things a little differently, but at the end of the day we’re all the same. I knew that all along, so I don’t know why I was that surprised. I’m a big preacher of equality and acceptance. I always believed that we should accept everyone for their differences, but I just didn’t realize there aren’t that many differences.
Everyone has a job (or they don’t), there are kids, there are adults, there are elderly people. People have to get to work in the morning, go to school, and have problems. They get divorced, go to the grocery store, go on runs in the morning. It’s all the same. I guess I expected to go out of the country and find some great difference between my country and theirs. And at first I did, but at the end of the day what do those add up to? Nothing, really. We all have the same DNA. We all have the same needs and physiology. Why should we be any different, really?
And I think if I went somewhere else that was a little bit more “different” from the US maybe I would get a bit more of what I had expecting, but again, at the end of the day I think we’re all the same, so it wouldn’t have made a huge difference where I chose to study abroad.
3. Staying with my host family was what really made me see all of the things I discussed in question number two. I lived with a 38 year old divorced mother with her two daughters (7 and 3 years old). While I traveled with friends over the weekend, I lived with the family during the week and was with them almost constantly when I wasn’t in class.
The little girls weren’t around all of the time because they spent a lot of time with their dad so I spent a lot of time with just my host mom. I really loved getting to know her. We had a lot of different views and because of this were able to have a lot of conversations and about values and what we believed in.
She helped me integrate into Spanish culture and after a while I got really comfortable and felt like I was part of her family and really lived in Spain. This is what made me realize that things weren’t that really different between the US and Spain. We had a lot of conversations about culture and came to a lot of understandings, and despite the slight language barrier, we were able to see that we weren’t that different after all.
4. This understanding has helped me not to be afraid of new situations and new people. I have a deeper understanding that people all are all the same at heart and want the same things. This will help me because as a nurse I will be taking care of a wide variety of people. I now understand that these people likely have different customs and beliefs that need to be respected. I also understand, however, that I don’t need to be afraid to find out more about them because while they have a different culture, customs, and possibly language than I do they have the same desire to be happy and healthy.
This experience has also improved my Spanish language abilities. It is really cool to see how much my language abilities can improve in just six weeks. I would love to go back to Spain or another Spanish-speaking country for a longer period, so I can become fluent. It would be amazing to be able to speak to some patients who would otherwise not be able to communicate with their health care providers!