The Chronicles of my Time Abroad

In Catalan – Bon dia!  I have created this blog to document my time abroad in Barcelona, Spain.  Friends, family, and acquaintances, feel free to read:)

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Reflexiones finales: Discovering Common Ground

As I embarked on this study abroad experience, my worst fear was that my Spanish would let me down. I have pursued a degree in Hispanic Studies in part because in my generation, knowing Spanish is of global importance. Despite my commitment to this venture of studying in Spain, in the beginning I doubted my ability to become a fluent Spanish speaker.

Over the past three months I have confronted this fear head on. Initially I became easily frustrated because I struggled to converse with native speakers. As September passed, however, increasingly I could hear the distinction between words. Although I was unable to respond quickly, I recognized that I had experienced major improvement in comprehension.

In the weeks that followed, my spoken Spanish improved as well. November 3rd marked the day when everything changed. It was as though I had acquired so much vocabulary that suddenly I was able to speak more fluidly. While shopping or at a restaurant, I was better able to express myself. I began to initiate casual conversation while waiting for the bus. It seemed that everywhere I went native Spanish speakers complimented my Spanish.

Despite this improvement in my spoken Spanish, as a perfectionist I continued to feel discouraged at times.

One day I confided in Andrés, one of my favorite professors. From the start, Andrés inspired me. It was evident that he strongly values his students’ success, and there is never a moment when he is not enthusiastic, so I felt comfortable talking with him. “I would like to speak to you about something that is bothering me,” I told him.

“Come in.”

“I often find myself feeling embarrassed by my accent because everyone responds to me in English, which makes me feel incapable of speaking Spanish.”

Andrés reassured me: “It is very common to feel like that, but if people respond to you in English, it is usually because they want to practice their English. Don’t worry about it – you can continue speaking Spanish while the other person speaks in English. Often, when someone hears from your accent that you are American, they think, ‘Ah, an American, straight out of the movies!”

I laughed. Andrés has a way of making light of a situation, and I felt much better.

I began to recognize how much I had accomplished. As our program director said last week at our goodbye lunch, in four months we had become capable of communicating in Spanish at an advanced, academic level.

On Saturday, I headed to the airport at the crack of dawn with my two (extremely heavy) bags. I felt a mix of emotions as I absorbed for the last time the sites of Barcelona’s distinct streets.

My first flight took off from Barcelona, Spain en route to Newark, New Jersey. After ten hours of travel and little sleep, I sat, bleary–eyed, at a café near the terminal waiting for my final flight. A lively girl who looked about my age sat down at the same table. “I love your hat,” I said.

A second girl sat down at the table.

“Thanks! I didn’t realize I was still wearing it,” she responded, as she removed the festive Santa hat.

“Where are you headed?”

“I’m going to Italy, and my friend is going to India. I’ve been living in the U.S. for the past year and a half, and I’m excited to see my family.”

“That’s funny, because I’m returning from living abroad myself! It’s so weird to hear English everywhere.”

Laughing, she responded, “That’s exactly how I felt when I first came to America. I could barely speak English, and it was even more difficult because in Italy we learn British English. For instance, I used to say accommodation instead of housing, which would always result in blank stares.”

It was gratifying to be able to share with someone from a different culture our parallel experiences. In this moment, I realized how much living in Spain had changed me. It opened my eyes to an expansive world, and showed me the excitement of finding commonality despite different backgrounds. I feel exhilarated to be returning to the U.S. with these insights and look forward to applying them to my life.

Traducción:

Antes de esta experiencia, mi mayor temor era que mi español me fallaría. Planeaba una carrera de los estudios españoles porque en esta generación, la habilidad de hablar en español es útil. A pesar de mi compromiso con este viaje, al principio dudaba que pudiera adquirir un español fluido.

Durante estos tres meses, he enfrentado este temor directamente. Al principio, me frustraba mucho porque no podía charlar con hablantes nativos. Sin embargo, para finales de septiembre podía oír la distinción entre las palabras repentinamente; es decir, aunque no podía contestar rápidamente, vi una mejora en mi comprensión.

En las semanas que siguieron, también me noté una mejora drástica en mi español hablado. El 3 de noviembre fue el día en que todo cambió. Fue como repentinamente tenía la habilidad de comunicarme con más fluidez ya que había adquirido tanto vocabulario. Cuando iba de compras o comía en un restaurante, sabía que quería decir. Empecé a charlar con desconocidos mientras esperaba el autobús. Pareció que todo el mundo quedó impresionado por mi español.

A pesar de esta mejora de mi español hablado, como soy perfeccionista de forma progresiva sentía desalentado.

Un día hablaba con Andrés, uno de mis profesores favoritos. Desde el principio, Andrés me ha inspirado. Evidentemente le importa mucho el éxito de sus estudiantes, y nunca hay un momento en que él no está pletórico de entusiasmo, entonces me sentía cómodo hablando con él. “Quiero hablar contigo porque algo me está molestando”, le dije.

“Pasa”.

“A menudo tengo vergüenza de mi acento porque todo el mundo me contesta en inglés, dándome la sensación de que soy incapaz de hablar en castellano”.

Andrés me tranquilizó: “Es común sentirse así, pero si alguien te contesta en inglés, usualmente es que quiere practicar su inglés. Entonces cuando esto ocurre, no pasa nada – puedes continuar hablando en español mientras que la otra persona habla en inglés. Muchas veces, cuando alguien oye de tu acento que eres americana, piensa, ‘¡Ah, una americana, fuera de las películas!”

Me rié. Andrés tiene una forma de mantener el humor en una situación, y me sentía mucho mejor.

Empecé a ver cuánto había logrado. Como el director del programa nos dijo la semana pasada en la comida de despedida, después de cuatro meses, hemos llegado a ser capaces de comunicarnos en español de nivel académico avanzado.

El sábado, me dirigía al aeropuerto por la madrugada llevando mis dos maletas pesadas. Sentía una mezcla de emociones mientras admiraba la ultima vista de las calles distintos de Barcelona.

Mi primer vuelo voló desde Barcelona a Newark. Después de diez horas de viajar sin descanso, me senté –lánguida– en un café cerca de la terminal para esperar último vuelo. Una chica animada de mi edad se sentó a la misma mesa. “Me encanta tu sombrero”, le dije.

Otra chica se sentó.

“Gracias! No me había dado cuenta de que todavía estaba llevándolo”, me contestaba, mientras que se quitaba su sombrero de San Nicolás.

“¿A dónde viajas?”

“Viajo a Italia, y mi amiga viaja a India. Llevo un año y medio en los Estados Unidos, y estoy entusiasma para ver mi familia.”

“!Que casualidad! ¡Acabo de regresar del extranjero también! Es una locura escuchar el inglés por todos lados”.

Riendo, me respondió, “Me sentía lo mismo cuando llegué por primera vez a América. Apenas podía hablar en inglés, y fue aun más difícil porque en Italia aprendemos el inglés británico. Por ejemplo, solía decir “accommodation” en vez de “housing” y siempre provocaba miradas vacías”.

Fue increíble relacionarme con alguien de otra cultura a través de una experiencia compartida. En aquel momento, me di cuenta de que Barcelona me había cambiado muchísimo. Abrió mis ojos a un mundo expansivo, y me reveló que se emociona descubrir los aspectos comunes a pesar de las diferencias innatas. Me excita regresar a los Estados Unidos con estas perspicacias para aplicarlas a mi vida.

Los peligros del veganismo

 

My final project for “gramática normativa,” my Universitat de Barcelona class, was to compose an essay regarding veganism. The subject of the course was advanced Spanish grammar, and essays were judged primarily for their use of advanced grammatical constructs rather than their substance. As it happened, however, this topic was of special interest to me because in my opinion, misconceptions concerning health are prevalent in today’s society. My Spanish essay is below, followed by an English translation.

El veganismo, una dieta de moda, ha llegado a ser popular en el siglo XXI. Además de la exclusión de la carne, el pescado, y las aves, los veganos también evitan los productos de animales como los huevos y los productos lácteos. Un sector de la población sostiene que el veganismo es un estilo de vida saludable, mientras que otros dudan que esta dieta sea beneficia. A pesar de su popularidad en los años recientes, es indudable que el veganismo puede ocasionar consecuencias graves por la salud.

Existe un montón de ideas erróneas sobre la salud como consecuencia de los medios de comunicación. El mensaje central de los anuncios cambia constantemente: a veces, afirman que la grasa es malsana y en otras ocasiones rechazan el gluten. Estas ideas erróneas existen porque las normas de la sociedad dictan que sea esencial conseguir un cuerpo ideal. En realidad, esta meta es inalcanzable. Todo el mundo ambiciona parecerse a un modelo reconocible, pero no se debe olvidar que las fotos que se publican están modificadas en muchos casos.

A causa de estas ideas distorsionadas, muchas mujeres han padecido trastornos alimentarios. Según los expertos, aunque las tendencias de comer alteran a menudo, la información sobre la salud permanece a través de los años. Para circular los hechos reales de la salud, es esencial que el gobierno legisle programas de educación sobre la salud.

En la actualidad, el deseo de mantener un cuerpo sin defectos permanece, y la moda de la dieta vegana ha agravado este estándar de belleza. Hay que fomentar un estilo de vida saludable que incluye variedad de alimentos.

Traduccion: The Risks of Veganism

Veganism, a trendy diet, has become popular in the 21st century. In addition to eliminating meat, fish, and poultry, vegans also avoid animal products such as eggs and dairy. Those who believe in veganism contend that it is a healthy lifestyle, while others question its benefits. Despite its recent popularity, it is undeniable that veganism can lead to severe health consequences.

The media regularly releases misleading health information. Food related advertising campaigns constantly change; sometimes, they claim that fat is unhealthy, while other times they reject gluten. These erroneous ideas exist because societal norms dictate that it is essential to pursue the ideal body. In reality, this is unattainable. Everyone dreams of looking like a famous model, but we must not forget that magazine photos often have been photoshopped.

The prevalence of misleading images of idealized women contributes to the increasing incidence of eating disorders among women. According to experts, although food trends frequently change, what is in fact healthy remains the same over the years. In order to disseminate those facts, it is vital for the government to establish effective health education programs.

Today, the desire to maintain a perfect body persists, and the popularity of the vegan diet is inextricably bound to this idealized standard of beauty. We must promote a healthy lifestyle that incorporates various nutritional groups.

I’m published?!

So I’m officially published…to Wikipedia! As much as I would have loved to write an entire Wikipedia post about Machina, the pasta restaurant I frequent WAY too often with my friends, I selected the eclectic city of Gràcia for my “obras maestras de arte catalan” class. I am responsible for the “artistic influences” and “traditions” sections, found at the following link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gràcia

Una sociedad empañada por demasiada información

One of my recent weekly writing assignments for my “redacción y estilo avanzado” class resonated with me. It centers on a relatable topic in American culture: technology. Although technological accessibility varies across cultures, a universal dependance on technology persists. There is something to be said for putting down your phone once in a while and living in the moment.

En el siglo XXI, todo el mundo se está enchufando. Durante esta generación, el público ha tenido acceso directo a la red, y hay avances tecnológicos a menudo. Además, existe un montón de información debido a la prensa, la radio, la tele, y las redes sociales como Facebook e Instagram. Esta sobreinformación ha contribuido a la desinformación, empeorando la habilidad de concentrarse y mantener relaciones personales cara a cara.

Muchos estudios de psicología han implicado que la sobreinformación ha empeorado la habilidad humana de recordar. Por ejemplo, mientras un estudiante está en clase, también puede leer el correo y estar conectado a Facebook en una ventana diferente del navegador. En realidad, la mayoría de la gente no es capaz de hacer multitarea, y es evidente que este estudiante solo recordaría una pequeña porción de lo que se está concentrando.

Además, la infoxicación, una sobrecarga de información, puede ser nocivo para la salud. En la actualidad todo el mundo está mirando en las pantallas cada día. Aunque las innovaciones tecnológicas han mejorado muchos aspectos de la sociedad, las pantallas electrónicas empeoran mucho la visión. Aparte de los efectos físicos del uso constante de la tecnología, otro problema es que los jóvenes de esta generación se quedan en casa demasiado en vez de reunirse con sus amigos. Asimismo, esta generación está más centrada en la apariencia de los perfiles en redes sociales. Aunque estos perfiles sirven como herramientas para crear una red de contactos, también contribuyen a la propagación de depresión porque siempre se puede encontrar una persona en la red que parece más feliz y más exitosa.

Es evidente que aunque hay muchas ventajas de ser una sociedad avanzada, si la tecnología aumenta rápidamente como ha ocurrido hasta ahora, el problema de la infoxicación solo se deteriorará. Hay que desenchufarse para que la sociedad ponga énfasis en la importancia de vivir en el presente, sin tantas distracciones.

El aprendizaje continuo

I have learned a crazy amount about myself and Spain in the past two months. Here are some of my many realizations since being abroad:

  1. I have realized how much I appreciate alone time. There are days when being surrounded by a million people on the metro drives me crazy.
  2. I am learning to take more risks than I thought possible – going to language exchanges alone are scary, but at least if it’s awkward I never have to see them again…
  3. I have developed a thirst for becoming completely fluent in Spanish.
  4. The Spanish language sounds beautiful! Still trying to get that rolled r down…
  5. I feel more confident, especially because I have to walk like I know my stuff to avoid getting pickpocketed (at least no one whips out a gun here).
  6. Apparently I can pass as Spanish! Last week a girl came up to me asking if I was from a nearby town. And someone told me I look Scandinavian the other day but I have no idea where they got that from…
  7. I am learning how to be “comfortable being uncomfortable,” something my yoga teacher once said that resonated with me.
  8. I am relating to people of all cultural backgrounds. There is something funny about laughing with an Italian guy over the Spanish slang we have picked up, such as “ya está,” (meaning that’s all, or it’s over) or “no pasa nada” (meaning it’s fine, don’t worry about it).
  9. People in Spain value their meal times. Lunch is usually the longest (and largest) meal and many restaurants offer a “menu del día,” consisting of about three courses. Sadly, I miss having endless take-out options, but at least I am learning how to be slightly less attached to my phone, despite the constant search for wifi.

Los que saldrían en el fuego

As I lamented a lost friendship, Betsy, my wise voice teacher and mentor responded, “your family members are the only ones who would ‘jump in the fire’ for you.” My weekly college voice lessons provided an outlet for one of my greatest passions: music. Not only did Betsy encourage me to perform a rap in my sophomore year performances, but she also provided me with life advice, and our sessions filled with singing, life talks, and laughter became known as “Wednesdays with Betsy.”

Betsy’s advice that blood is thicker than water resonated with me; however, I didn’t understand the sentiment until now. This week my parents visited and before their arrival I hadn’t realized how much I missed them. As usual, they came to the rescue in every way possible. My dad fixed the door to my room (who knew it could close?) and solved my malfunctioning email, and my mom came stocked with an endless supply of medicine and clothes. During their stay in Barcelona I showed them the places I frequent. We walked through one of the many University of Barcelona buildings, and my parents stared in awe at the courtyard with beautiful greenery and a little pond that I walk through to get to class. We also ate lunch at one of my favorite cafés by the school with delicious sandwiches (that European bread though). We also had dinner with some of my closest friends here, and as always my friends loved them.

Interestingly, although I felt more secure with my parents’ presence, since neither of my parents speaks a word of Spanish, I often led the way and did all of the communicating. My dad tried speaking French to a couple locals only to receive blank stares, and my mom spoke English to everyone even if they responded in Spanish (I reminded her that no matter how slowly she spoke English they would not understand her…). One night, I engaged in an interesting conversation with a taxi driver, and since he only spoke Spanish I translated the conversation to my parents. In this moment I realized how much my ability to understand spoken Spanish has improved over the past two months.

On Sunday night I went to my parent’s hotel for the last time. It was hard to believe that our time together had come to an end. As we said our goodbyes I was overwhelmed with emotion in a way that I had not felt in a long time. As soon as I stepped out of the hotel I burst into tears. “Of course this has to be happening on the street with the most tourists in all of Barcelona,” I thought. These are the times my 20-minute walk home feels like an eternity, and I prayed to not cross paths with anyone I knew.

As painful as it was to say goodbye, walking through Las Ramblas with mascara streaming down my face I couldn’t help but feel grateful to have parents that gifted me this experience.

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El poder de estar sola

Cuando fui a la universidad, estaba sola por primera vez.  No tenía una hora de acostarme, vivía con mis compañeras, y siempre estaba rodeado con amigas.  Durante esta época, me sentía independiente; sin embargo, después de viajar afuera, “ser independiente” tiene un sentido totalmente diferente para me.  No tengo la red de seguridad de mi familia, mis amigas de juventud, y mi lengua nativa.  Podría estar asustada, y evitar lo desconocido, pero he descubierto que estar en un lugar extranjero se libera. Hay que tomar riesgos para que puedas llegar a ser la versión más auténtica de ti mismo.

Traducción: The Power of Being Alone

When I went to college, I was on my own for the first time.  I no longer had a “bedtime,” lived with my peers, and was always surrounded by friends.  During this period in my life, I felt independent; however, after traveling abroad, “being independent” has taken on a completely different meaning.  I no longer have the security blanket of my family, childhood friends, and native language.  I could be terrified, and avoid the unknown, but I’ve learned that being in a foreign place frees you.  It is vital to take risks in order to become the most authentic version of yourself.

Pensamientos después de un mes

Hola desde España! I have been living in Barcelona for about five weeks.  In the weeks leading up to my departure, I was terrified of the unknown. Besides a short study abroad experience in high school, I had never immersed myself in another culture for an extended period. However, from the moment I stepped on the plane, I knew that I was embarking on a journey that would change my life. On the plane I conversed with a girl taking a semester off from college to backpack through Europe. Upon mentioning my Hispanic Studies major, she responded, “so you must understand what the flight attendant said then.” I laughed and told her that I did. It was encouraging for a stranger to praise my ability to understand Spanish; however, what I soon learned is that speaking Spanish in a classroom and engaging with native speakers is completely different.

Since arriving in Catalunya, I have acquired more knowledge than I could have expected. I am living in Barcelona during an important time historically because for the first time Catalonians have had the opportunity to vote to secede from Spain. Early on I realized how serious this issue is, and from the many conversations that I have had with locals, it seems that Catalonians are generally homogeneous in their support of the secessionist movement. During orientation, I mentioned to a sales associate at a local boutique that I had arrived in Spain about two weeks prior. She responded “no, you arrived in Catalunya two weeks ago.” I gave her a puzzled look, and she explained that in her opinion, Catalunya’s culture is distinct from Spain’s. Interactions such as this not only mark improvement in my Spanish comprehension (Castellano –the Spanish dialect in Catalunya– sounded fast as all else initially), but also reveal a world much bigger than myself.

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