Spring Posts

  • Spring Semester in Spain 2020

    Anthony Vinson
    UVA 2020
    Valencia, Spain

    March 6

    Before I walk into the classroom, I can hear screaming and yelling down the hallway and the clashing of chairs and textbooks. For the first time in the past three weeks I arrived early, mostly because I did not get lost navigating the hallways. I walk into the room and am greeted with a hundred “Hellos” in English, while a swarm of fifteen-year-olds run rampant, unsupervised. To my right is a kid sitting in the trashcan. Another one is having his faced wrapped in masking tape by his friends; and in the back of the classroom, I hear a loud THUD. Before I can look up, I hear laughing and more kids yelling my name before I realize someone had ripped all of the paper and books out of a desk creating a huge mess. I cannot hold in my laughter and break down laughing, while trying to act as an adult. Gemi and Hermi, the English teachers, walk into the classroom, unphased by the chaos. Instead of sitting down in their desks, the students who are being taught by Gemi run out of the classroom to a different one down the hall. After ten minutes the chaos dies down, but the classroom looks like war zone with trash and paper everywhere. Image preview

    For the past month I have had the incredible opportunity to volunteer at the local school to assist in the English classrooms. The experience was completely opposite of what I expected, but I cannot imagine it being any other way. Mondays and Wednesdays, I look forward to interacting with the kids in both Spanish and English. Some are more experienced than others, but all are trying their best to speak in English. At first, some of the students did not realize I spoke Spanish and would talk among themselves in their native language, but they quickly realized I was bilingual after I responded back to them in Spanish.

    On Mondays, I take the kids out into the hallway and help them practice their oral presentations or have a conversation with them in English. The girls are always a little more timid but warm up quickly after I ask them a few questions. The guys are polar opposite. They approach me speaking all the English slang they can think of while boasting their huge personalities. One time a kid whipped out his fake ID and asked me if I thought it would work at the clubs, while his friend was asking about American girls. Each week is never the same, and their requests and questions get funnier. Their teachers are saints and are extremely helpful to both myself and their students.

    Because of Dr. Palmer’s linguistics’ course, I understand why native Spanish speakers have a hard time pronouncing specific sounds and letters in English. I have been able to apply the knowledge gained from Dr. Palmer to help the next generation of English speakers. I break down each sound and explain to students in Spanish where their tongue should be placed when pronouncing the different English sounds.

    I am lucky to have the opportunity to help out in the school. Each day I can see their joy and excitement when I walk into their classroom and nothing beats the feeling. Their goofy and innocent humor brings out the best in everyone and I look forward to working with them each week.

  • Studying in Spain 2020

    Blake Page
    Universitat Autonoma
    Barcelona, Spain 2020

    March 26

    As this comes as no surprise, unfortunately I am typing my farewell blog from my home
    and not from the beautiful city of Barcelona. As a result of the current health pandemic we know as the virus Covid-19 my program, just like every other student studying abroad this semester, abruptly ended and all students were informed they had to return home. Although I am disappointed my time in Barcelona was cut short, I can not overlook the time I did get to spend in Europe, which I will be forever grateful. I met a lot of wonderful people, made numerous friends, experienced beautiful places, and most importantly made lifelong memories that will stay with me forever.

    Blake and friend in Girona, Spain

    As I have had time to reflect on my study abroad experience in self quarantine for the last two weeks, I realized that choosing to study abroad was one of the best decisions of my life. I was blessed with wonderful and loving host parents that I was sad I had to leave. But they enhanced my experience and without them my experience would not have been the same. My classes were also a part of my great experience because they were all classes that fit my interest in art and architecture, but also they were fun and interactive.

    Standing in front of the Cathedral of Girona.

    In three out of my four classes we were able to learn in the classroom and also have walking field trips around the city in an interactive learning experience. But my favorite part of the whole experience was being able to travel to places in Europe and different places within Spain with my program and also with my friends. I was able to travel to Seville, Spain, Milan, Italy, and Lisbon, Portugal just to name a few.

    Getting to experience the different historical places, cultures, and cuisines were times I will cherish forever and hope to be back to visit again someday. Thank you for taking this journey with me and I encourage any and every student to look into studying abroad so it may change your life just as it did mine!

    All the best,
    Blake Page

  • Studying in Spain 2020

    Blake Page
    Universitat Autonoma
    Barcelona, Spain 2020

    March 1

    Last Super painting by Leonardo Di Vinci in Milan

    I am in the middle of midterms as I write this and the ones I have taken so far have gone well. The classes I am taking have been fun and interactive and because all of them are architecture and art related we have been outside of the classroom and explored the city, numerous times. That has been the best part of the classes so far, taking what we have learned in the classroom and seeing it or in the case of my photography class put techniques we’ve learned into practice around the city. Also, while in these classes I have managed to meet a lot of great people and make friends to explore the city and try new restaurants with.

    Patatas bravas from Bo de B in Barcelona

    Most study abroader’s here in Barcelona, including myself, favorite food here is patatas bravas and paella. Patatas bravas is fried potatoes drizzled in a few different sauces which makes the patatas bravas our favorite. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish which can be made with seafood or chicken. It contains rice, onions, peppers, diced tomatoes, and a host of other ingredients that make the paella a flavorful dish.Another great thing about studying abroad is that you get a chance to travel to different places for the weekend because there are no classes on Fridays.

    Me in front of the Duomo in Milan, Italy

    I have traveled to Seville, Spain, Milan, Italy, and will be traveling to Lisbon, Portugal this weekend along with a few more trips in the future. It has been great traveling Europe with newly made friends and experiencing new cultures while also trying to navigate these countries without knowing their native language, which is always interesting and funny. I am making progress with Spanish as I have been able to build on the vocabulary I already knew with the help of friends, my host family, and practicing while interacting with locals. I am at the midpoint of the program and so far have had an amazing time in Barcelona with many memories.

    I look forward to the last two months and can’t wait to share my experiences in the next few blogs. Until next time!


  • Studying in Spain 2020

    Blake Page
    Universitat Autonoma
    Barcelona, Spain 2020

    The beach at Sitges, Spain.

    I’ve arrived in Barcelona and it has exceeded every expectation. The city is beautiful and very full of life. It is also very fast paced, with a lot of people walking, which was overwhelming the first few days. My main transportation for getting around the city and to class is the subway, of which I had to get familiar. The subway system was very confusing with many different routes and stops, in addition to the large amount of people using it. After the first week or so, it became much easier to navigate the subway with the help of the Barcelona subway app. My commute from home to class is usually around 20 minutes combining riding the subway and walking. Walking is a must, here in Barcelona, and virtually everyone does. I do not mind the walking, because you get to enjoy the scenery and the wonderful smells of the numerous restaurants, pastry shops, and bars around town. While walking, you may even stumble upon a restaurant you want to try out.

    Me in front of Arc De Triomf

    I have been here for about 3 weeks now and my homestay has been nothing short of amazing. My host family is a retired couple who are the kindest people. They speak no English, only Spanish, which I was afraid of when I first arrived, as my Spanish is not the best. The first few days it was hard to communicate and get past the language barrier between us. But, we never got frustrated and worked to communicate by gesturing and using google translate on my phone. Today it is so much easier to communicate, as I am building on the Spanish I already knew prior to the visit, plus learning from my host parents, friends and using the language around the city.

    Visiting La Sagrada Familia

    My host family stays in an apartment, which is not far from a metro stop for the subway, which is very convenient. My room is a good size with a desk, closet, and probably a XL twin-sized bed. I have a half-bath right outside of my room, which I use. To take a shower, I have to go to the full-bath, which is located next to their bedroom. My host mom does all the cooking and she is an excellent cook. Dinner is my favorite time of the day, because she makes amazing food. This is also the time I usually mingle with my host parents, as we watch soccer (my host dad’s favorite sport) or a Spanish food channel. Breakfast is not big here, as I usually eat toast with jam and orange juice. So far, my homestay has been great and I am glad I made the choice, because many of my friends who chose to stay in apartments complain about having to cook for themselves and are always eating out.
    I will be traveling to other places with friends very soon, which will be exciting to blog about. See you soon!