Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hasta Luego Sevilla

Today is my last day in Sevilla. It has been nothing less than an amazing, life changing experience that has helped open my eyes and see the world in a new way. I can’t believe how fast this program has flown by. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was uncomfortable speaking Spanish and beginning to learn the European ways. I have met so many great people and made friends I hope to keep forever. This whole experience has been such a refreshing change of pace and exactly what I needed. One of my main goals for this study abroad program was to gain a new perspective on as many things as possible, the best way to learn the most about any subject. I have especially learned to appreciate a slower lifestyle free of rushing and stress, definitely something I plan to implement in my life back in the US.

This beautiful city of Sevilla has treated me well. I am fortunate enough to already have plans to come back during my travels around Europe this summer. Pues, ahora, no es audios, pero es hasta luego Sevilla.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The love of Language

The majority of young Europeans I have met speak at least 4 languages, and 2-3 fluently. It is the norm here. Whenever I meet a new person, one of the first questions I ask is: how many languages do you know? My favorite story is from a Romanian woman who knows English, Spanish, Romanian, French, and a little bit of German and now lives in Sevilla with her Spanish boyfriend. They met while studying abroad in France a few years ago and fell in love. They decided to stay together after their program was over while he went back to Spain and she returned to Romania. There, she hired a private Spanish teacher to learn how to better communicate with her boyfriend. After two years of regular practice with him and the teacher, she was fluent and moved to live with him in Spain. My favorite aspect of this story is the romance behind her desire to learn yet another language.

I have found that Spaniards these days are introduced to a global mindset from a young age. Being a part of the European Union has influenced their economics, education, and currency. It is a part of their life. Also, being so physically close to many countries, each with a different culture and language, it is the norm to become familiar with them.

Other Americans and I have discussed our frustration that we have been spending seven or more years learning a new language, and some of these Europeans can learn a new one and speak better than us in a year and a half. I attribute this to two main factors. One, after learning one language, the subsequent languages come easier, and two, the method by which they are taught. In Europe, they first listen to a language, then speak it, next learn to read, and finally write it. In the United States, we are taught in the exact opposite order.

This skill of knowing multiple languages helps the student become a more global citizen with a wider viewpoint. I have realized the importance of this later in life, hence my decision to major in Global Studies. However, after seeing a global viewpoint as the common way of looking at yourself as compared to other citizens of the world, I am even more encouraged to travel and learn. In particular, this experience has encouraged me to study yet another new language after experiencing the excitement of being able to communicate and hold a conversation in a foreign tongue. The only decision left is, which one will I choose?

Sustainability as a way of life, not a choice

Here is my next journal entry for my school work containing my opinions on Spanish Sustainability practices and the differences between Americans’.

The differences in living a sustainable lifestyle here in Spain are evident compared to the United States. People here live more sustainable lives not as a way to follow the Green movement that has seemed to influence the world after the acknowledgement of global warming, but as the only option.

The most noticeable difference is that the Spaniards walk places. This is made easy by having a compact city with high occupancy living. In the city of Sevilla, almost everyone lives in an apartment. This way of life is something that has naturally transformed in an old city such as this. The streets were designed before the invention of cars, before there were many other options of transportation beside your own two feet. Having a dense city with destinations within walking distance was required for daily life. This is a stark contrast to Phoenix, Arizona, specifically designed to jump aboard the trend that is the automobile. Sprawling, a car is required to do just about anything.

Sustainable practices have become a part of the unique aspects of Spanish culture, primarily the fact that socializing is not often done in private homes. Therefore, public spaces are used to the fullest extent because of the simplicity and small size of their home. In Sevilla, in particular, the riversides have been converted into parks and beautiful walking, biking, and rollerblading paths. A relatively new trend amongst the young people in Spain is botellón, which is drinking in public spaces, mostly by the river. Even though this is technically illegal, the police turn a blind eye. Public sidewalk space is even utilized fully here with tables from cafes, adding charm and a comfortable place to sit in the beautiful Andalucían weather.

            Electricity and water are recognized in Spain as highly valuable resources not to be consumed without conscious thought.  This is reflected in the fact that the costs of utilities are very high, therefore, water is not wasted, and lights are not left on after leaving a room, even for a few minutes. Very few people own clothes dryers here, as well. When I asked my host señora why it was not common to have one here, she simply explained that you do not need one since they can dry perfectly fine outside and it will preserve the quality of your clothes. Seems like logical thinking but it is obviously not universal thinking, since many more residents of the Valley of the Sun would be putting their most powerful resource to use for years if it was.

            This contrastive idea of minimal emphasis on consumption extends to their shopping habits. This is a cultural difference that I have struggled with. I like to think that I am not a consumer oriented person, in fact, one of my goals for this global experience and the travel associated with it was to live with minimal stuff, less unnecessary things. It has surprised me to notice I become frustrated when stores are closed mid day, Sundays, and it seems any time I am not in class. The fact that I cannot purchase what ever I want whenever I want, like it is possible in the US with numerous 24-hour restaurants and superstores, has surprised me as one of the greatest cultural obstacles I have had to overcome.

With the streets lined with many small locally owned fruit shops, citizens buy mostly in-season fruit grown in Spain. Even their dogs are mutts and not created to get the perfect purebred where there are already plenty of dogs without homes. Spaniards have a completely different way of thinking about the earth, its resources, and the economic and social impacts associated with consumption. This mindset as sustainability as a way of life rather than a trendy option is the main factor that sets Spaniards apart from most Americans in regards to living a sustainable lifestyle.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My day in Sevilla

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Some pictures from my amazing weekend in the Canary Islands. 9 of us went to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We spent plenty of hours on the beach and exploring Gran Canaria getting in our vitamin D.