Summer Arts and Culture Study in Spain (SACSS)
These are fragments from students' essays about their experience in Spain in June 2009
The first four are my translations from Spanish, while the last three were written in English by students with a lower level of Spanish proficiency.
"I cannot believe that it is my last day in Spain. Madrid is now like my home away from home, yet I hope to go back to Barcelona one day to see more of its cathedrals, buildings, and beaches. I feel so comfortable here that sometimes I forget that I am in Europe, yet then I see an old cathedral and I realize how old this culture is. I love the opportunity to speak Spanish every day because I am a little bit shy, and now I feel much more comfortable with my Spanish. Back at home, I used to speak Spanish at work, and I was always very nervous, now when I return I will not be nervous, I will just practice to learn more. This experience made me realize how important it is to learn languages and other cultures. I want to go to countries with cultures different from the USA." - Amanda B. 2011
"The trip to Spain was the most profound experience of my life. I saw and learned things that I never thought would be possible. I fell in love with Madrid and its people the moment I got here. When I arrived I was nervous and did not know what to expect, now that the trip is almost over I feel as if I were Spanish and belonged here. I love it all, especially food and siesta. Trips to the oldest cities in Spain, such as Toledo, Segovia, Sigüenza and Aranjuez were incredible for their history and beauty. I never thought that I would visit so many cathedrals, palaces and castles with historic past. Understanding the significance of these historic spaces for all humanity makes me feel special. Being able to learn while traveling is the best experience in the world. I was long fascinated by works by Velazquez and Dali, yet now when I talked and learned about them in class, getting to know them changed my way of thinking. I think that my life changed because of my study in Spain. I will be traveling all over the world now, I want to know all cultures of the world, and it will be my plan for the next years of my life. I think that living without knowing what Europe has to offer is a sin." - Maria M. 2010
"I learned a lot about myself and about another culture. Before this trip I thought that the whole world was like the USA. I want to bring my family, my friends and my grandma here, so that she can see Toledo's cathedral, I know she will love it. This was the trip of my life, and I want to share what I learned with friends and family. I appreciate my family, my friends and my life even more now. I learned that there is much more than Connecticut out there. I thought that a month would be a long time away from home, yet I realize now that it was not enough. I want to be back, and thank you Madrid for all that I learned." - Marissa C. 2012
"Today is the last day of out study program in Spain, and I cannot believe that it is almost over. I learned so much. I felt comfortable in Madrid from the very beginning because I have spent a lot of my life in Europe before. Yet Spain with its culture was completely fascinating for me. Seeing live what I had only seen on pictures and film before, such as the bullfight and flamenco, made me understand and love Spanish culture even more than I expected. I will never forget our visit to Madrid opera house where we saw Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, even though I could not see much from my seat, but singing and learning the story were fascinating. I really enjoyed what this program has to offer. I also think that this program opened my eyes to arts and architecture of both medieval and contemporary Spain. Visiting historic places away from Madrid made me learn more about history. Castles, museums and palaces were so beautiful and simply the best. It was so much more valuable to see it live than just to learn about them from books. I enjoyed very much talking to people in Madrid, and learning about the differences between Spanish spoken in the USA and in Spain. This trip was marvelous, and I learned not only about art, but also about life, culture and myself. This program also confirmed that I want to continue studying Spanish and learning about its cultures. I saw a lot during this month, yet I want to come back and learn more. Spanish will always be part of my life, and this experience was only the beginning. I can honestly say that this was the best trip of my life. ¡Viva España!" - Francesca G. 2010
"My experience in living in Spain for a whole month would be one trip that I won't ever forget! After being on this trip I feel more rounded and well cultured. Seeing the different museums, the beautiful art of amazing painters, the different cities and tasting the delicious food made me feel very lucky to be able to have this experience, and I truly feel like I saw another part of the world. Madrid absolutely felt like it could be my home. There is always something to do, like an opera on a Monday night, or visiting the palace, or simply walking around enjoying the most beautiful view of the skies and admiring the architecture of each building. I especially enjoyed Museo del Prado. Each painting was so detailed and colorful. One of my favorites was Las Meninas, because of the beauty of the painting and some of the questions it leaves you with. I liked how each painting had a story behind it, and got your imagination wondering. Now being at the Prado I feel more cultured and smarter because I know of famous artists, such as Velazquez and Dali, and even Picasso. This was an amazing experience, one that I will never forget." - Lucia P. 2011
"I am so happy that I decided to take this trip. I would have regretted it for the rest of my life if I didn't take this opportunity to travel and learn more about myself and the world around me. Most importantly it has inspired a love of travel and a passion for learning that I am happy to have refreshed after all of these years of college. We have traveled to many different places in our journeys, the many palaces, parks, and art museums have enriched my ability to understand and appreciate art and architecture in a way that I was never capable of previously. Being in Madrid has allowed me to look at my life in a new perspective, for an entire month being forced to be away from my job and my life in the United States as I have known it has given me clarity and understanding and has allowed me to reprioritize my life after college. I have made a list of goals that I will stick to when I get home." - Christopher J. 2010
"Spain is a natural place. The culture is such that it reflects the basic human desire to be happy. The society reflects this more: they are sophisticated yet at the same time their attitude toward life may have an American, such as myself, think that people of Spain are all on vacation. Yet they are highly productive. They appear to be relaxed and honest to their nature. Rather than being tied to the flag as in the case of America, Spaniards claim allegiance to their region's cultural history, even speaking different languages in areas around the other main cities like Barcelona and Valencia. They are united as one nation, however consider themselves different like brothers might do. And I have learned that the family of Spain is made up of many different siblings, each unique. While this thought was terrifying at first because of my expectations of the official language, I find it interesting now that I understand what it is like to visit a country with a much older history than mine. Personally I felt at home here, despite my ineptitude toward the language. I will bring home no trinkets or nic-nacs of Spain, only the impression it has left on me, which was significant."
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