Greetings from Seville, Spain!

John Skyler Whitfield — September 13, 2015

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I was first exposed to basic Spanish in middle school back in 2005. By my junior year in high school, Spanish had become a passion of mine, which has been nourished and enriched in and outside of the classroom to present since I started as a freshman at H-SC in 2011.

While I loved the language and wanted it to be a part of my life, I was never the strongest or most fluent student in the classroom; so in the traditional Tiger-Spirit, I began seeking a radical, hands-on approach to change my circumstance- not just to better myself and achieve my personal goals, but to uphold the academic legacy, passed down to me in good faith, by the great H-SC men who came before me.

When it came time to select a program, I made it my mission to push myself above and beyond my academic comfort zone. I tossed out the idea of a summer program, as I wanted to spend as much time as I possibly could abroad (even if that meant missing Greek Week or H-SC’s football season, two of my most cherished traditions at the Hill). So at this stage I was looking at programs that lasted at least a semester.

Geographically, I knew I wanted to go to Spain… While linguists say that no one dialect of the same tongue is better than the other; many Spaniards consider their Spanish to be the gold standard of the language. Whether that’s true or not, I figured the best way to get a better understanding would be to go there myself and attempt to speak Spanish like a Spaniard.

Looking for semester long programs in Spain with the personal standards I had set for myself (to push my own academic limits and broaden my horizons) in mind, I knew I needed to live in a city. Between life in my quaint home town of Holden Beach, NC and my time at Hampden Sydney, I’d never had the opportunity to live in or understand the culture of an urban environment. The few times I’d ventured out into DC and Richmond, I didn’t feel as well-rounded as I should be when faced with navigating the streets and metro system without GPS.

Once I had laid out my parameters for what I wanted out of a study abroad experience, the most obvious choice was the “JYS in Seville” program sponsored by Sweet Briar College. I viewed this program as a one-stop shop so to make me a stronger student, a more conscious traveler and a better person all around.

I’ve only been in Seville for about a week now but its incredible how much more comfortable I feel speaking the language; not to mention, next time I stop through DC or head up to Bethesda (or any major city), the metro will be a piece of cake if I need to use it.

I am truly blessed to be here, and as the only HSC student on this program, its been wonderful learning amongst the great company of our friends from Sweet Briar.

I want to give a special thanks to: my family, my advisor: Dr. Palmer, Dr. Widdows: H-SC Global Education director, Giulia Witcombe: JYS/SBC program director, Prof. Afatsawo: Spanish Department Chair and all my brothers from Woodberry, H-SC and Theta Chi doing big things back home.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the alumni, extended friends and family of the Hampden Sydney and Sweet Briar College communities that have sacrificed to make these kind of dreams become reality for current students like myself.

 

 

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