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Study Abroad Snapshot: A Day in the Life of a Spanish Student

The study abroad experience is about so much more than simply studying. It's about traveling, leaving the familiar behind, being challenged and inspired every day, and seeing so many beautiful places that your head starts to spin. However, the "study" part of studying abroad is essential, too! For me, being a student at the University of Alicante has been a rewarding part of my experience here so far.
 Our CEA group at La Mano on campus at the University of Alicante
photo by Leah-Beth Peroni
The University of Alicante is one of the few universities in Spain with its own campus. Most are located in buildings scattered throughout the city center, but ours is housed in its very own corner of the city, complete with grassy lawns, orange trees, and fountains. Roughly 30 thousand students study here, so needless to say I was worried about how I would plug in and find a place in my new college community. But in the past six weeks I have been able to do just that: I have made friends, learned a lot, and gotten involved in campus activities like singing in the University Choir! Below is a journal entry I wrote on January 15, a day in the life of a student.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Today was a really wonderful day! Woke up as usual at the wee hour of 6 a.m. and left our apartment while it was still dark to catch the tram for school. The past few days I have made friends with a girl named Samantha who always catches the same tram, and it turns out she's our neighbor! It's fun to start the morning chatting sleepily in Spanish with her and Cynthia, my roommate, as we ride the familiar tram route and the sky slowly lightens outside the windows.
 Samantha and I riding the Tram to the University
I love my class, Spanish B2+ in the Centro Superior de Idiomas, which is the University's Spanish program for international students. My professor's name is Julian - he always insists on being called by his first name - and he's great. He makes the time go by quickly with stories, jokes, interesting cultural tidbits to supplement our grammar topics, and really helpful lessons on the finer points of the Spanish language.

Right afterward I have Spanish Civilization and Culture, a one-hour elective class. It's designed to barely skim the surface of a pretty broad topic, but I have still learned a ton of really interesting things I'd never learned about in other history classes! We're focusing on 20th-century Spanish history, talking about the Second Republic with its education and modernization campaign in the 20's, the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, and the dictatorship of Franco for the following thirty-six years, a national trauma that has left a lasting impression on the country. Our professor has us paste photocopied pictures, excerpts of novels, and newspaper articles in our notebooks, taking a scrapbooking approach to learning history.
 Sharing lunch with friends on campus

After class I had organized a little lunch gathering of friends. The group was made of myself, my roommate Cynthia, our neighbor Samantha, another friend from CEA, and three friends from my class. We sat around chatting in the beautiful sunshine outside Club Social II and shared lunch together. Around that circle we represented five different countries: the U.S., Mexico, Russia, Albania, and Vietnam. I feel so lucky to be living and studying in Europe, meeting people from all over the world! I now know what it's like to be an international student – it's not easy. You have to be prepared to face communication barriers, but form relationships despite them. More than anything I feel like a global citizen – my world isn't limited to my college, my city, or even my country.

Like the friends I've met, I am venturing out into places that were formerly just colorful zones on a map and making my own way in the world. Julian, my professor, shared a really cool quote the other day in class: "Hay que estudiar para hacer extraño lo familiar, y familiar lo extraño.” It's necessary to study to make the familiar strange, and to make the strange familiar. For me, that's what studying abroad is all about.
 Pathway to campus

Hillary Harder is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Alicante, Spain. She is currently a sophomore at Goshen College.

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