Kyle poses with his Spanish mom, Marisa, and her daughter, Paula.
Overseas Study Program
Kyle’s majors: Spanish Education
Year/term abroad: Summer 2010
Reason you chose this program: The Alcalá program fit several criteria I had including: credits, location, and timing.
Favorite classes: Contemporary Spain
Describe the housing situation: I lived with a single mother and her daughter in an apartment approximately 15 minutes (walking) away from the university.
Complete this sentence: If I could do it over, I would ... go bigger in every aspect. I would speak more Spanish, try more new foods, and meet more people. I did all of these things on the first trip but if I could do it again, I would do them even more.
Best memory: Watching Spain win the World Cup was by far the most unforgettable moment for a soccer purist like me. However, the best memory I have was playing the game “Risk” with my host family and some of their extended family. I learned more about the culture, people, and language (along with a few “choice” words) in those several hours than I could have ever dreamt of learning in a classroom.
Biggest surprise: Siestas are real! The Spanish culture literally shuts down in the middle of the afternoon to take a little break before reopening for the night. I still get tired around 3pm and want to take just a little nap.
Experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock: The biggest culture shock for me was the schedule. Eating a big lunch around 2:30pm and then not eating dinner until 10:30pm or 11:00pm is a hard schedule to acquire. Coming back I found that the best way to fight reverse culture shock was to keep in contact with the people I met in Spain.
Going abroad versus staying on campus, discuss: In the 8 weeks that I was in Spain, I developed my speaking skills more than in the previous six years of Spanish classes. A teacher in an American classroom can talk to you as much as he or she wants about the language but until you are submersed into the language and culture you will not truly appreciate it.
Fact about Spain that you think people would be surprised to learn: The Spanish Crest, a shield containing the flags of all the provinces with two pillars and a banner that reads, “Plus Ultra”, is actually where we get the dollar sign symbol. Pirates, who could not read or write, would capture Spanish ships and steal the money. On the backs of the coins was the crest. Since the pirates could not read or write they would draw the coin and then tally how many of that coin they had stolen. Their drawings of the Spanish coin were of the pillars and the banner snaking through them, thus we get $ symbol. So cool!
Advice to future study abroad participants: Make the most out of the opportunity because you will most likely only be in this situation once. Go to dinner with a professor, get involved with your host family, and see as much as you can!