Author Archives: ninadevitryoviedo

Processing the Oviedo Adventure

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Processing the Oviedo Adventure

How strange it is to be writing this last post from my home in Pennsylvania. The semester officially ended 3 weeks ago on May 18th, but I only just returned home yesterday evening.

Truthfully, I haven’t quite processed that our time in Oviedo has come and gone. Last night when I went to sleep in my own bed for the first time in months, I awoke in the middle of the night to check my phone and thought I was in Spain. Today when I took a jet lag-induced nap, it happened again. Although I am physically back in the United States, I know it will take some time to mentally feel here, too.

The final week in Oviedo couldn’t have been more bittersweet. Everyone tried hard to balance their time between studying for finals, packing, and cherishing final moments with friends and host families. I felt an urgency that had been growing all semester— time was running out, and I needed to make the most of it.

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Cherishing final moments with friends

Many students on the program flew home a day or so after it ended, and I received incessant texts and Snapchats from friends describing how strange it was to be back. I personally would be staying a bit longer to hike some of El Camino and to visit Greece with a friend, and for me, staying a little extra was just what I needed to truly say goodbye. It’s funny how that works— some were ready for home as soon as they finished their last final, and others, like me, decided to extend our time just a bit longer.

There are many wonderful things about returning home, but some difficulties as well. The thing I am struggling with most is the realization that I just spent so much energy building a completely new life, and now it’s gone. The memories, lessons, and friendships will live on, but it’s sad to think that we will never all be in that same circumstance again. Many of my new friends go to different schools, and we all wonder when we’ll see each other again. But if one thing is comforting, it’s knowing that it’s definitely a “when” we meet again, and not an “if.”

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A view out the window on my flight home…

It’s cliche to say that I’ve changed, but I know that in many ways, I have. I think in the end, it’s impossible not to grow when you do something that puts you so outside of your comfort zone. This summer, I hope to be able to process how exactly I’ve grown and to acknowledge everything that shaped me this semester.

I want to share just a bit of advice that I and some of the other Temple students came up with as our semester came to a close. Hopefully, it can be of use to anyone planning to study in Oviedo in the future!

  1. “Make an effort to make Spanish friends or friends who don’t speak English”- Nikki
  2. “Make an effort to read and watch TV in Spanish”- Max
  3. “Be as proactive as possible at the beginning with planning out big trips for the semester”- Dylan
  4. “Bring sunscreen and motion sickness medicine to Picos de Europa”- Kaitlyn
  5. “Check Oviedo Facebook Groups for language Tandem partners. I didn’t get a tandem until February, and I feel like I could have learned more if I found one earlier”- Joe
  6. “I wish I had traveled more within all the beautiful places in Asturias”- Chris
  7.  “Don’t pack too much, I brought too many things!”- Jess
  8.  “Pack for all seasons… Oviedo sees it all”- Jess

And a few from me…

  1. Go to the Erasmus student events… it’s a great way to make new friends!
  2. Get an Erasmus student card, because it gets you discounts on things like bus tickets, Ryan Air Flights, and more!
  3. Keep a journal (even though it can seem like a chore) and take lots of photos. You won’t regret it!
  4. Allow yourself to let go of attachments back home and truly build a life for yourself abroad. If you go all in, there’s no way you won’t have the time of your life.

Well, it looks like it’s time to sign off from the Temple Spain Blog. What an absolutely life changing time. Thanks for an amazing 5 months, Temple Spain!

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Processing the Final Week

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I’ve always heard that the adjustment phase of study abroad is the hardest part. The homesickness, the feelings of alienation, the starting completely new. It’s true– it definitely was a challenge. But you know what I think might be harder? Saying goodbye.

It sounds like a total cliché, but I truly don’t know where the time has gone. I don’t want to believe that today marks the beginning of our last week here in Oviedo. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we clambered out of the bus to meet our host families?

 

The hardest part of this week will be letting go of all of the attachments I’ve made here. When you travel somewhere new and have no grounding whatsoever, it seems that you’re almost forced to form new, strong bonds. I have become attached to my relationship with my host mom– a wonderful and selfless lady who stops at nothing to make sure I’m comfortable, and who always takes time to tell me stories, listen to my stories, and teach me about her world. I have become attached to my friendships here. Not only have I grown closer to friends at Temple, but I eventually came to be very close with students studying here from other schools. Our group of friends is my reality now, and imagining returning to school next year without all of them is heartbreaking. And I am also attached, in some way, to this city. It took me a while to become truly fond of it, but as the semester draws to a close, I can safely say that I wouldn’t have wanted to study in any other city in Spain. Oviedo is big enough that you’re never quite done exploring it, but small enough that I truly feel I have come to know it over these past few months. There is something so charming about my favorite cafe spots, the beautiful parks, the cathedral, the cobblestone streets of the old city… alright, I’m going to stop before I need a tissue box.

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Enjoying final moments with friends at the Parque de San Francisco

I haven’t started packing yet, and I probably won’t until it’s almost too late. I love my room here and the personal space I’ve created for myself. My clothes are strewn around in the closet and my books across my desk as if I expect to live here for many more weeks. Maybe I’m in a bit of a denial stage.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely can’t wait to see my home, family, and friends again in Pennsylvania. But it’s a bittersweet time. Luckily for me, I’ve extended my trip a bit and will be doing some extra traveling after the semester officially ends on May 19th. This is pretty standard, and I know several other students who are doing the same. But although I won’t be leaving Europe for 3 more weeks, I’ll still be saying goodbye to Oviedo in 5 short days. I guess nothing good lasts forever, right?

It’s time to soak in the final days here, to enjoy the final meals with my host mom, to celebrate with friends, and to give thanks to my professors. It’s been real, Oviedo ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Final Group Excursion

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A Final Group Excursion

This past weekend, we were lucky enough to travel as a group to several destinations in Asturias and the nearby autonomous region of Cantabria. Our last Temple excursions were those we went on while in Madrid for our program orientation, so it was quite meaningful to travel all together once more before the program wraps up. Jaime had been telling us about this trip all semester, and I honestly can’t believe that it already has somehow come and gone. For me, that’s a true marker that the semester is nearly over.

As we boarded a small bus at 9am on Saturday and embarked on our journey, I put my headphones in and watched the landscape roll by. I’ve always loved listening to music and gazing out windows on trips, and on this specific occasion, there was something extremely nostalgic about it. I thought back to our first bus rides together in Madrid, and how our group has gone from complete strangers to a family bonded by circumstance. Our bus brought us high into the mountains, and eventually I closed my eyes, fending off motion sickness as the roads grew windier and windier.

After about an hour and a half we reached our first destination, Cabrales. This was possibly the best stop on the trip, because it was all about cheese. This little town produces some of the most amazing cheese in the world, and we spent the afternoon touring around the village and mountain meadows discussing the history of the region and its cheesemaking. I was a little afraid of sampling it when I found out it was aged in caves, but decided to try it in the end. It was some of the strongest but most scrumptious cheese I have ever tasted. We tasted it along with locally harvested honey and fresh Asturian corn cakes, and finished off our lunch with other rustic Asturian specialities like Bacalao (a type of fish) and Morcilla (blood sausage).

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Touring Cabrales

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Cheese and Honey!

Minds full of cheese facts and bellies full of delicious Asturian food, we all piled back on the bus to head to the town of Potes for the night. Here we were able to decompress and explore, recharging for the day to come. On Sunday we had the opportunity to explore the cliffs of Bufones de Pría and tour through the Caves of Tito Bustillo, home of some of the oldest and best preserved cave paintings in all of Europe. I could barely wrap my head around what I was learning- apparently the oldest of the paintings there is around 40,000 years old.

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Exploring Potes

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Hiking the Cliffs of Bufones de Pría

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The Entrance to the Caves of Tito Bustillo

On our drive back to Oviedo we stopped at a breathtaking overlook called Mirador del Pito. I sat silently and looked out over the mountains and the sea, trying to soak in the moment as much as I could. “I’m going to miss my life here,” I thought.

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Mirador del Pito

It was a beautiful weekend of closure, and I’m grateful that we still have one more weekend left here in Oviedo. We are entering our second to last week, and the reality of the end is hitting me.

How time flies! Check back in for some final posts about the end of the semester 🙂

 

 

Classes at La Casa de Las Lenguas

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Classes at La Casa de Las Lenguas

It’s so hard to believe that our time here in Spain is wrapping up! There are always a million things I could write about here, but one big part of our experience in Oviedo that I haven’t talked much about yet (and definitely should!) is our classes at the Casa de Las Lenguas, or the “house of languages.” The Casa is situated on the University of Oviedo’s humanities campus, and is a center dedicated to teaching Spanish to international students. As Temple students, we all had the opportunity to sign up for 5 classes there this semester.

All students are placed in the appropriate class level after an entry exam, so this way, classes are specially tailored to each student’s needs. Although we have not been taking classes side by side with Spanish students, we’ve had the opportunity to have classmates from China and many parts of Europe. Most of us are also side by side with lots of other Temple students, which made the adjustment to learning in a new environment much easier!

I’ve gotten to take a variety of great classes this semester, and was able to hone different language skills in each one. I enrolled in an Oral Expression class, a Translation class, a Spanish Culture class, a Directed Readings class, and a Literature class. Other options included Spanish for Business and History of Art in Spain.

The Directed Readings class was with Jaime, so this offered a way to stay connected with a Temple professor and familiar teaching styles while abroad. In this class we’ve discussed extensive history and literature periods in Spain, as well as reading a variety of short stories, poetry, and watching movies to supplement the material. Most recently we watched “Ay Carmela,” a movie that gave historical context to one of our readings written during the Spanish civil war.

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Students watching “Ay Carmela” in Directed Readings

Our oral expression class is filled with conversation and public speaking. We’ve had the opportunity to simulate celebrity interviews, radio shows, and finally, a fashion talk show! This class is definitely one of my favorites since I’m someone who loves to chat and perform!

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Oral Expression

The culture class has given a wide view of the regions, customs, and traditions of Spain. As we finish up the semester, we all get to choose a topic of interest and present it to the class.

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Sophomore Woayoarm presenting in Sociedad y Cultura

Another favorite of mine is our translation class. We’ve worked hard all semester translating English texts to Spanish, and this has been one of the best opportunities I’ve had to hone my grammar skills and general command of the Spanish language!

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Students hard at work in Translation class

My final class, literature, has offered a detailed look into some of the greatest works in Spain’s literature history, including El Cid, La Celestina, and Don Quijote. I wouldn’t want to walk away from studying in Spain without taking a class like this!

The end of the semester is a whirlwind of final projects, presentations, and exams. However, the professors here do a great job of making sure we also have time for learning and experiencing new things outside of the classroom. Studying here has been a perfect combination of focused classroom learning and external real world practice, and I’ll definitely be sad to leave my home here in a few weeks.

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Me and one of my great professors!

But it’s not over yet! Stay tuned for more updates as the program winds down.

 

 

Group Dinners in Oviedo!

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Group Dinners in Oviedo!

Since arriving in Oviedo, our Temple group has had the opportunity to meet up on the 2nd or 3rd Thursday of every month for a dinner with Jaime. The dinners are included in the Temple Spain program, and are an awesome way to experience new restaurants in Oviedo, relax, and catch up with everyone as a group. I personally have not eaten out much in Oviedo, so I’m always super excited to get together with everyone and try out new restaurants! Every month, Jaime has had something amazing planned.

Our first group dinner was at one of the most famous Sidrerías in Oviedo. Sidrerías are super common here- it’s where they sell sidra, the naturally fermented cider that is commonly associated with the northern regions of Spain. It’s super popular in Asturias, and attending dinner at one of the top Sidrerías gave us a great look into the way the locals often enjoy their dinners out. At this dinner we were brought rounds and rounds of tapas, ranging from special cheeses and breads to the famous Spanish tortilla (an omelette made with potatoes and eggs). We ended the night watching and dancing to a live band, and I think it’s safe to say that our first group dinner experience in Oviedo had us all already looking forward to the next one!

The following group dinners were held at the Oviedo tennis club and a restaurant specializing in preparing seafood. Both of these dinners were fabulous, but my favorite was our dinner this past Thursday.

Before meeting up at La Taberna del Zurdo at 9:30 pm, Jaime made sure to tell us we were in for a treat. He compared the top chef working at the restaurant to an “iron chef,” and when I asked what exactly he meant, he explained that this man had catered for World Cup soccer teams before. Apparently he was the real deal.

Our dinner that night was an excellent fusion of different culinary influences. It was hands down my favorite meal I’ve eaten in Spain all semester! We started off the night chatting and catching up, because it isn’t often that our entire group gets to spend an evening together. We had the option to enjoy a glass of wine or some sparkling water, and soon the different courses of food started coming out. I’ve definitely come to a point where I’ll eat almost anything, and I was super excited to be trying all the plates even though I wasn’t quite sure what everything was.

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Fried Vegetables with Sauce

What I thought was some type of odd meat turned out to be a delicious fried banana, and when a plate of jet black pasta came out, I accepted the fact that it was covered in squid ink and just went for it.

We all passed each course around and got a taste of everything, and the chefs even prepare special alternatives for the vegetarians in the group!

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Pasta with Squid Ink

It’s a little crazy to think that we’ll only have one more group dinner after this, but I’m so glad that Temple Spain has this tradition and that we’ll have one more opportunity in May to come together over conversation, laughter, and food.

Til next time!

 

Enjoying Oviedo as Time Gets Shorter

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Enjoying Oviedo as Time Gets Shorter

After returning from Spring Break and getting settled back in to my schedule in Oviedo, I found that April was passing by faster than I had realized. It’s pretty hard to believe that our semester in Oviedo ends in a little more than one month… we only have 4 and a half weeks left of class! I have been paying a lot of attention to the passage of time while studying here, mostly because I want to make sure I’m acknowledging the time I spend and savoring what I have left. But still, I don’t think I was prepared for just how quickly the end would approach…

These next few weekends I’ll be traveling outside of Oviedo on a few preplanned trips, so when I am here in the city, I’m making a point to spend time in the places I love most. One of these is an enormous park that I’ve mentioned before- El Parque de Invierno. This past weekend, I didn’t feel the need to travel outside of Oviedo to find something to do. Instead, I spent the entire day on Saturday at this park, which is only a 20-minute walk from my house! Although Oviedo is a pretty small city, it seems like there’s always something to do.

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The beautiful “Parque de Invierno”

Saturday afternoon was 65 and sunny. We haven’t seen too many days like that this semester! However, now that it’s mid-April, the weather is beginning to take a turn for the better. The forecast for this upcoming week is the sunniest and warmest I’ve seen since arriving in Oviedo… every day is above 65. (Although I won’t believe it until I see it!)

As I mentioned, I spent all of Saturday afternoon with a friend in El Parque de Invierno. Since it rains so often here, people really take advantage when there’s beautiful weather. It’s always so life affirming to see so many people out and about and enjoying the sun in different ways! My friend and I soaked in the sun and the community atmosphere at the park as we walked, talked, read, listened to music, and simply enjoyed the day. For someone who loves nature, I surprisingly don’t often spend time at parks when I’m in Philadelphia. I think that’s going to change when I return home!

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Sydney journals at the park

Although there are a variety of great parks in Oviedo, this one is by far my favorite. It almost seems like it could have won some “community park design contest” in a magazine, because it’s really too good to be true!  (You know what I mean, right? No? Hear me out.)

There really is something for everyone– I don’t think I’ve ever seen a park with such diverse and interesting amenities. It includes the typical play areas for children, numerous walking paths, and some basketball courts, but there are also some pretty cool surprises: an entire track and field, a skate park, a rock wall, a walking maze made out of hedges, and even an area with outdoor workout equipment. Oh, and there are some pretty breathtaking snow capped mountains in the distance!

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The skate park

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A variety of exercise equipment

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Trying out the rock wall!

Now you probably see what I mean! With all it has to offer, this is definitely one of the places I’ll miss most in Oviedo.

As time gets shorter, I’ll continue to seek out the best ways to spend it and to savor my days as much as I can. Til next week!

 

Adventures Beyond Spain: Exploring Malta

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Adventures Beyond Spain: Exploring Malta

This past week was our group’s spring break, and everyone had the freedom to spend the week as they chose. Most of us, go figure, decided to travel! Everything just seems so “close” when you’re already on the other side of the Atlantic… Some traveled in groups, some took the solo route, and some students’ families even came to visit for the week. Whether choosing to hit a variety of major cities in a matter of days or picking one or two places to relax for the entire week, everyone seemed to have a blast and came home with countless stories. Weeks ago while planning my break, I knew that above all I wanted to spend my week in a sunny and warm place with ample opportunities to explore outdoors. For, although there are plenty of hiking spots and outdoor activities in Oviedo, it isn’t always sunny and 60’s…

While perusing my options, I remembered advice I had received from a friend who studied abroad in France last spring. What she had recommended to me was something she said in passing, but I vaguely remembered some descriptions of a magical island with rolling fields, ancient ruins, and wonderful locals. Was I making this up? I decided to text her and see what she had been talking about. Her response was: “Omg! Malta!!!”

She was ecstatic about the prospect of me going, and offered tons of tips on the best spots to see and where to book an Airbnb. When there are so many travel destinations to choose from, it really can be helpful to narrow things down by talking with friends who have traveled before!

I began seriously researching this destination, and was astounded to find that the flights to the island (thanks, Ryanair!), Airbnbs prices, and general costs of living were all incredibly affordable. So, I booked my flights and decided to go for it.

Many people haven’t heard of Malta- it’s one of the smallest countries in the world, just south of Italy. The main Island is only 316 square kilometers (I’ve gotten used to the metric system over here…), and there is also a smaller island called Gozo that is 67 square kilometers. I chose to stay in Gozo, where I could avoid the tourist scene and stick to personal adventuring and meeting locals.

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The Port in Gozo


For my agenda of sun, relaxation, and exploration of a beautiful new place, the week couldn’t have been more perfect! I was joined by a friend from the U.S., and we did a lot of exploring without any previous research. Our week consisted of stumbling upon ancient historic sites, old churches, and beautiful scenery. This has always been my favorite way to explore a new place: dropping the map and simply discovering as you go. This brought us to have a personal tour in a beautiful old church by two local friars, eat delicious pistachio crusted sea bass and homemade apple tart, and discover a breathtakingly beautiful hiking trail that winds along the sea. The whimsy of the country and friendliness of the locals never ceased to amaze me!

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Touring an 18th Century church with some friendly locals

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Citadel in Victoria, Gozo: Fortified during the Bronze Age and later developed by the Phoenicians

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Hiking along the coastline


All in all, it was an amazing week where I managed both to discover a new place and allow myself some time to relax and just be present. It almost didn’t feel real to be away from Oviedo for so long, and by the end, I found myself getting excited to return to my friends and host mom. I guess I really am beginning to think of Oviedo as a home base! I was also itching to get back to practicing my Spanish, since most people in Malta can speak English along with their native Maltese language.
Now I’m back in Oviedo, and happy to be here. But the Mediterranean food, culture, and sunshine have given me a travel bug… looks like I’ll need to find some time to visit the Mediterranean parts of Spain, too!
Til next week!

Semana Santa & the start of Spring Break!

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Semana Santa & the start of Spring Break!

This past week was an extremely special week in Spain- Semana Santa, or Holy Week. It is one of the most important holidays in the country, and is a whole week full of Easter celebrations, processions, and more. The week culminates in Easter Sunday services, which coincide with the day of Easter that I’m used to celebrating in the United States. Although I’ve seen a good bit of Easter candy lining the racks of grocery stores, it doesn’t seem to just be all about the egg hunts, baskets, and bunnies here in Spain. Spain has a large Catholic population, so religious celebrations are very central to the week. One of my British friends put it this way: “It’s so different here in Spain, this week has so much beautiful meaning! In the U.K. we just have a lot of chocolate and daffodils and things…”

According to our program director Jaime, some of the biggest Semana Santa activities happen in the south of Spain. As you probably know, our group is way up north in the Asturian mountains. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of processions and celebrations in Oviedo and surrounding towns during Semana Santa!

I unfortunately didn’t get any very up close experiences with celebrations this week, because it was also the beginning of our Semana Santa spring break. Monday through Wednesday we were all hard at work finishing up papers and exams, and on Thursday and Friday, the adventures began for the students in our program. Students in our Temple group are doing some amazing things– many are traveling in groups together, and from what I’ve heard, Temple will be covering ground all the way from Morocco to Rome to Budapest this week (and tons of places in between!).

I actually stuck around in Oviedo until Friday evening, using the time to pack and prepare for my upcoming spring break trip. While others were already off eating pizza in Rome and crepes in Paris, I had the benefit of getting a little look into the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday traditions in Oviedo. For example, on Thursday my host mom was busy at a rehearsal, and on Friday she sang at her church’s Good Friday service. There was also a procession scheduled in the streets in which teams of people would carry massively heavy and beautiful shrines. Some of us had seen these teams practicing earlier on in the week, and Jaime explained that it takes extreme coordination and communication for people to pull off such a feat. Apparently these metal shrines can weigh hundreds of pounds! I planned to go check out the procession on Friday, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to rain.

A few students in the group chose to go south to experience some of the Semana Santa traditions there, and I can’t wait to hear their stories and see their pictures when they return. As for me, I chose to escape the rain in Oviedo for the week and head for the sun and the sea…

Temple really is everywhere- this weekend I was able to meet up in the Southern French city of Marseille with a few girls who have graduated and are now teaching English in France and Spain. It was amazing to reconnect with old Temple friends and to hear about other ways to spend time working with language abroad! I think they’ve convinced me to apply for some English abroad teaching positions once I graduate…

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Enjoying the Old Port of Marseille with Temple grads Kacie Hoagland, Halana Dash, and Amelia Schunder

After a weekend of sea breeze, French food, and sight seeing, I am off to the next leg of my journey- the Mediterranean island of Malta (for more sea breeze, delicious food, and sight seeing, I hope!).

Til next week! I’ll be sure to post an update on the travels that ensue 🙂

A Week of Workshops

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This past week, La Casa de Las Lenguas (the part of the University of Oviedo where we take all of our classes) offered an exciting opportunity. For one week the school’s schedule paused, and instead of attending normal classes, each student got to sign up for 2 different cultural workshops or “talleres.” The workshops met every single day throughout the week, and on Friday we all convened to celebrate and share what we had learned.

I’m a pretty indecisive person, so I had a lot of trouble choosing from the wide array of workshops that was being offered. There was something for everyone: a dance workshop for those looking for more movement and music, a cooking workshop for the culinary experts, a botany workshop for the nature enthusiasts, a photography workshop for the, well, photographers, and a handful of more academic workshops like “micro-story” writing. They even offered a workshop that helps prepare students for the DELE exam, which is an official exam that can be taken to certify your level of Spanish proficiency.

In the end, I chose the dance workshop and the DELE preparation workshop. I’m pretty sure I would have had a great time with whatever workshops I chose, but in the end I was very happy with my decision!

The DELE workshop was every morning from 9:30 to 11:30. The professor gave us valuable information on how the DELE exam is run, and we practiced our speaking and pronunciation techniques through a variety of activities. One of the most helpful things we did was watch a video of someone who had previously passed the DELE exam. This gave me an idea of where my level was in terms of the exam, and helped me realize that I would definitely like to sign up to take it at some point. We also played plenty of games, including racing while saying tongue twisters and practicing making up hilarious stories on our feet with only a picture or a few guide words to go off of. Although the basis of the workshop was academic, the professor and her two class assistants still managed to make it extremely interactive and fun!

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A morning in the “Dale al DELE” class

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Our “Dale al DELE” Professor & her two assistants!

 

And now for the dance workshop: there were two different sections, and mine met every day from 1-2 PM. We spent the week learning steps for Bachata and Merengue (2 dances that actually come Latin America, not Spain!), and I had a blast every “step” of the way 🙂

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Partnering up in dance class!

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Matt and Lucy learning new dance moves

After a super enjoyable week of DELE preparation and dancing, I couldn’t wait to see what my other classmates had been up to in their workshops. If I couldn’t sign up for all the workshops, at least I could live vicariously through my friends when seeing their presentations on Friday!

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The presentation from the Botany workshop

When Friday arrived, we got to spend about 2 hours taking turns to share our experiences. Each workshop presented something from their week, ranging from a read-aloud from the short story group to some delicious treat tasting with the cooking group! A few pairs from our dance workshop even got to get up and present the special routine we had learned…

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4 pairs from the dance workshop showing off their moves on Friday!

This week we’re back to our normal class schedule, but having a week of talleres through La Casa de Las Lenguas was definitely an unforgettable experience!

Til next time : -)

Experiencing a Women’s March in Spain

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Experiencing a Women’s March in Spain

On March 8th, people all over Spain joined much of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day. Although I’ve attended women’s marches in the United States, they have never seemed to coincide with this international holiday, and I realized that I had never actually been aware that March 8th was International Women’s Day. My host mom explained that there would be marches all over Spain that day, and that if I had interest in attending one, I could go at noon in Oviedo or later that evening in a nearby city, Gijón. She herself would be taking the day off class (many women choose to go on strike for work or school on this day) and attending the march in Oviedo. Although I was a bit tentative to attend a large event that could be categorized as a protest, I decided that the experience would outweigh my anxiety. I unfortunately missed out on Oviedo’s midday march since I had class that I didn’t want to skip, but later that afternoon I met with friends to take a bus over to Gijón.

Many of the students in the program have already been to Gijón, a bustling beach town just 30 minutes from Oviedo. I hadn’t yet made the trip, so I was excited both to experience a women’s march in Spain and to see the city.

When we arrived at the bus station to purchase tickets (only 4 euro round trip!), we discovered that many of the station’s workers were on strike. This caused a slight delay, but it was exciting to see how participation in the holiday was manifesting in Oviedo’s every day life.

Upon arrival in Gijón, I realized that this was definitely the biggest march I’d ever been a part of. According to reports, we were 6 of approximately 20,000 people that took to the streets that evening. A few of us were prepared with signs to feel more a part of the movement, and we entered the massive crowd in awe. Like the women’s marches I’ve been to previously, it was not only women in attendance, but entire families. Reading everyone’s signs and taking in the chants and songs was definitely good Spanish comprehension practice, and standing alongside such an energetic crowd was exhilarating.

The enormous crowd in Gijón and a sign reading: “The revolution will be feminist”

What I witnessed that evening was fairly similar to what I’ve experienced at marches in the United States. There were groups of people singing and clapping, people wielding noisemakers and sparklers, hundreds of signs, and some distant fireworks, too. The majority of the women I saw wore purple, but I unfortunately didn’t get the memo about that.

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Showing off our signs as we enter the march

The streets were so packed that we decided to take a small detour along the sidewalk to get to the front of the march. When we reached the end, we got to witness a few different speakers as well as a chorus.

Although it’s very true that you have to be cautious when attending any kind of march or protest while abroad, I can say that I’m very glad I went to participate in this one. It was unforgettable, and a great way to compare something I’m passionate about back home to a similar experience in Spain.

Til next week!

**Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses encourages students to actively engage in their host communities in a variety of ways; however, we caution students about the potential danger of participating in demonstrations or other events where large crowds gather and create the potential for violence to escalate. We advise that before deciding to go near or participate in a demonstration, students research and make themselves aware of potential safety or legal risks, as well as any pertinent laws about engaging in a demonstration as a visitor.