William Imeson (Valencia, Feb. 23)

I have been in Valencia for a little over a month now and it’s finally beginning to feel almost normal. The initial shock of waking up in the mornings and realizing that I’m halfway around the world has worn off, and now I’ve settled into a fairly standard weekly routine. I have classes from Monday through Thursday, and these three day weekends are fantastic. The UVA center here offers 90-minute Spanish classes twice a week that feel pretty similar to the classes at HSC.

Each morning, I have three options for travel to get to class. I can walk, take the bus, or ride a bike. Valencia has a system called Valenbisi, which allows people with a pass to rent a bike for half an hour. There are over one hundred in the city, so after I bought my pass, I can ride these around Valencia freely as long as I return it before the time expires. This is my main method of transportation. I live about forty walking minutes from the school, but the bike cuts that time in half. I bike to school through Turia River, which is a huge park system that goes through the middle of the city and is one of my favorite places in Valencia. It used to be an actual river, but it kept overflowing and damaging the surrounding area. The city diverted the water and turned the riverbed into a long park, filled with palm trees, grass, and flowers. I live pretty close to Turia and it’s a good short cut to get to school. Turia River has several skate parks, soccer and rugby fields, and is always full of people biking, jogging, and walking.

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I live in an apartment in the middle of the city with my host mother and one of her sons, who happens to be my age. It’s actually a pretty large apartment and we have plenty of space. The apartment is long and narrow, and has a nice living room that overlooks the street. Unfortunately, carpeting isn’t big in this country and the floor is easily the coldest tile my bare feet have ever rested on. Luckily, my host mother gifted me a pair of Homer Simpson slippers. The Simpsons are pretty popular here, but it’s a huge shock to the ears to watch it on television and hear the iconic voices dubbed over in Spanish.

I wake up every morning and eat a light breakfast while my host mother packs me a sandwich to take to school. I come back around two o’clock in the afternoon for a larger meal and finish off the day with a big dinner around nine at night. It’s a bit of a strange schedule to me, but it’s not too hard to transition into. Not a single meal passes where I don’t eat an absurd amount of bread. I’d say that my diet here consists mostly of bread and meats, which I don’t have a problem with.

Overall, I’ve had a great first month in Valencia! I look forward to what my next three months will bring!

William Imeson (Valencia, January 16)

William Imeson (Valencia, January 16)

I have now been in Valencia for almost a week and it is already far more than I could have ever anticipated. As I prepared for the trip, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, other than the basic cultural differences that come with visiting another country. I knew that I would be taking some classes with my program and that I would be with other students my age. I knew that Valencia has two official languages: Spanish and Valencian. I knew that people in Spain eat different kinds of food at different times of the day. But aside from these basic understandings, I really don’t have any preset notions of what my semester here would be like. I will just let my experience in Spain and with my study abroad program play out and see where it takes me.

I always knew that if I studied abroad, I would want to go to a Spanish speaking country. I have studied Spanish for about eight years, and I wanted to be able to put that practice to good use. For the record, I don’t speak Valencian at all, but it isn’t too terribly different from Spanish if you can make a few educated guesses at words that are similar to Spanish. I chose to travel to Spain because there are a lot of good study abroad programs for this country and because I wanted to return to Europe. I went to Europe as a child and I felt compelled to go back. I eventually decided on the University of Virginia Hispanic Studies Program at Valencia because it is a language-intensive program and I heard positive reviews about it from previous students in this program.

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The two things I look forward to most are travelling around Spain and improving my Spanish. I sometimes forget that the United States is still an infant compared to these ancient European countries. Spain has been around for so long and history can be seen all around the country. There’s something intriguing about walking around an old city and feeling its age beneath your shoes (side note: I also don’t mind that Valencia averages about 65° Fahrenheit during the day in winter). Although I would certainly enjoy learning some Valencian, I don’t know if I will be here long enough to pack two languages into my brain. The first couple of days have been a jet-lag induced whirlwind, but now that I have been here for a while, I have started to acclimate and will start my classes soon. While I wouldn’t say that I’m dying for them to start, I’m sure it will be nice to finally get out of Morton and Bagby.