Remember, study abroad is not just for undergraduate students, but graduate students too! Tiffany Dixon, a candidate for the M.Ed. in Languages (Spanish) and a graduate assistant in our office, recently packed her bags and headed off to the historic village of Trujillo in Spain to study Spanish language and culture in depth. Once she got back, she wrote down her impressions of her time there to share with all of us. What follows is the first in a series of blogs detailing each week of Tiffany’s time abroad:
Armed with my Spain travel book, letters from family and friends (who would remain anonymous until I opened each envelope), and Tommy la tortuguita (little turtle) I ventured to España with 19 other students and two professors from the College of Charleston. I had all I needed to embark on my first trip abroad after spending many agonizing hours packing. Of course I had taken pictures of family and friends, but also my dear friend Amber compiled the aforementioned letters and one of the two very special deans in The Graduate School Office gave me Tommy. This shelled friend is all the way from India. As you will see from my pictures this turtle is a world traveler who accompanied me on all of my journeys throughout Spain. So with these familiar treasures I headed off on my first flight ever to the town of Trujillo and discovered the rich history, culture, language, cuisine, and daily life of Spain.
I had heard from many people that Trujillo is a very small town, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that while it was small, everything you needed was right there including a Hiporcore Hipermercado (which is like a Walmart). There was also a ton of shopping-oh no says my wallet! Once our bus arrived we all met our families and went home for lunch. My host father came to pick me up after work and then took me to our house where my host mother and two sisters, Victoria and Paula, were waiting. I was very excited and nervous to meet them and for the opportunity to speak Spanish 24/7. They greeted me with un abrazo fuerte y dos besos (a big hug and two kisses). It is customary to kiss a person once on each cheek when you first meet or as a greeting. We had a delicious lunch and then we all took a siesta, a nap taken during the day right after lunch. Children leave school at 1:00 and parents come home around 1:30 or 2:00 from work to have lunch and take a siesta. Adults return to work between the hours of 4:00 and 6:00 and stay until about 8:00.
The next morning my host mother showed me around the town. We went to Vodafone, the local cell phone shop, the mayor’s office, and the supermarket. Everything at the supermarket was so fresh, and because the store is within walking distance people can shop several times a week to purchase items fresh. The seafood looked just like a seafood shop in the States with fresh fish up front with their heads still on. As a Charlestonian I felt right at home with all of the seafood! Speaking of seafood, one famous Spanish dish that I enjoyed was paella, which is made with rice cooked with saffron for color and flavor, vegetables, and seafood. Though traditionally made with seafood this dish can be a medley of chicken, beef, rice, and various vegetables.
After we put the groceries up at home, my host mom took me to the Plaza Mayor or the main square of the city. This area overlooked by the equestrian statue of Francisco Pizarro, one of the founders of the Americas (specifically Peru), is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, hotels, the tourism office, and many other places where Spaniards can sit and chat.
Next, we went to the Coria, an old convent which would now be the site for our classes. Here our parents dropped us off and our professors gave us an orientation for the program and explained the specifics of the two classes we would be taking. I was the only graduate student in the group which I felt was a benefit to my language skills because the other students would ask me grammatical and cultural questions about Spanish. They thought that I was doing them such a favor by helping, but it was really an equal exchange because it helped me to review things I had learned when I was in their shoes as an undergrad. The culture class that we took was turned into a graduate course for me. Have no fear grad students, this was an easy process with the help of The Office of International Education at CofC and my two professors. In addition to doing the work for the two undergraduate courses I was to conduct interviews with locals in Trujillo and cities that we visited about very specific aspects of life in Spain. These areas were politics, the economy, immigration, and the youth in Spain today. My findings were documented in a research paper that I would complete before the end of the trip.
Stay tuned for Week 2 of Tiffany and Tommy la tortuguita’s adventures in España…