Why did you decide to go to Spain? How did you choose the program that you did? Had you been to Spain before?
I was interested in bettering my skills in Spanish both for my classwork in Comparative Literature as well as for my own benefit. Originally, I’d thought I’d go abroad to South America, but Professor Bell-Villada sung the HCAY’s praises from the mountaintops, so I figured that the program might be worth looking in to. It seemed pretty academic, and I liked the fact that there was a language pledge and homestay, so I decided I’d go with it. I’d never been to Spain, no.
What was your biggest “culture shock” as you got used to living in Madrid?
Madrid’s culture is not too shockingly different from our own; I guess the biggest thing was probably the occasionally ludicrous amount of food we’d be served (and expected to finish). There’s a lot more open racism, as well, which is something I never really adjusted to.
Did you stay with a host family? If so, how did that affect your experience abroad?
I did stay with a host family, and it made all the difference in the world. Some of my best experiences were just joking around with my host-mom and her kids over meals. I learned a lot from them, both about Spain and just about life in general, and could not fathom what my experience would have been without them.
Did your experience abroad change your initial perceptions of Spanish culture at all?
I ended up appreciating a lot more about its social and economic issues, and realized that Spain is a lot more nuanced than people give it credit for. I also realized how incredibly old it was compared to the United States, a feeling you can’t shake once you get back.
Why do you think it’s important for Williams students to study in foreign countries? Do you recommend a full year abroad?
It’s important because even if you don’t like what you find in another culture, it helps you understand your own a lot more. It also helps you to understand universal things about people and how the world works, and gives you a better grasp of history. A full year abroad is not for everyone, but I felt (and still do feel) that a single semester does not allow one to reach their full potential in a place, so if you can stay somewhere for a year, you should seriously consider it.
What was your favorite food that you ate while in Spain?