Sunday, June 12, 2011

First Entry... a week late

Well first off, my name is John Sanchez, and thanks for checking out my blog. Before I go into the details of my first week here at Spain, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I'll be a senior this fall finishing up my music major as well as a spanish minor. In fact, this study abroad opportunity in Alcalá is the only reason I'm able to complete a minor before I graduate in the spring of 2012. I was always interested in studying abroad while at Stony Brook, but becoming a music major at the beginning of my sophomore year made it slightly more difficult to travel if I had wanted to graduate on time. When I began taking Spanish courses at Stony Brook during my sophomore year as well, I started seriously considering how I may study abroad without falling behind in the music major. Luckily for me, the summer programs don't interfere and they also have been very accommodating- they have assigned me a classroom that I may practice in every day. And that's how I'm here today.
I should probably note that my blog will be slightly different from the typical 4-week sumer session blogs. Since I need both sessions to help me complete my Spanish minor, I'll be here for 8 weeks, not just 4. Therefore, my blog will continue throughout the two months that I'll be studying in Spain.
And now I can finally tell you something about Spain. I feel like I've been here forever. I'm so happy I'm staying both sessions. One month wouldn't have been enough. And since tomorrow actually marks the halfway point of the normal study abroad session, I'm realizing how fast it really goes. For one, I love my host family. I live alone with a mother and daughter. Both are very nice and accommodating. I have my own bedroom AND bathroom. I don't even have that at home. And living alone isn't bad. Originally I had hoped for a roommate, but I'm very content with my family. We get along very well and the daughter even takes me out to various places around Alcalá. I live less than 10 minutes away from school, and the center of Alcalá. It sort of feels like a hotel. Especially because everyday, I come home for lunch and my host-sister makes me the best meals. While she cooks, we talk and get along very well. I'm surprised that we're able to communicate so well. She speaks very little english, so sometimes when I don't know how to say something I can say it in english and she'll recognize it. Other times, we have to explain what the word means that the other one doesn't know. It's almost fun when these things happen. Going into the program, I didn't know what to expect, but apparently I'm able to hold my own here so that makes me feel better. At least I have a good base to work with for the next 2 months.
As far as classes are concerned, they seem like they'll be challenging with a fair amount of work. Nothing unreasonable though. This session I'm taking Intro to Latin-american Literature and a class called techniques of writing. Both are interesting, but the first is definitely a little harder since we have to analyze texts. Since the texts we study start from Colombus's time, the vocabulary gets a little tricky. At least since I need to look up definitions more than once, some are beginning to stick. The teacher is very good though, and she goes at a pace that I'm comfortable with when speaking about the excerpts. The other class is a mix between grammer, writing, and conversation. I really like that teacher also, and the material is very useful. It's more aimed at writing, hence the course name, but it also really helps with pronunciation and speaking in general. Both of these classes are the equivalent to 300 level Spanish classes at home, so the homeworks do take some time to get through. But that also probably contributes to the intensity of the 4-week program. We only have classes monday through thursday, and classes are 2 and a half hours long each. That's really not as horrible as it seems when I say it. We start at 9 and get out at 2:30, just in time to take a siesta (nap) if we so choose. Also, every friday there are trips to various cities within the school. They're not mandatory for all of the students but I highly recommend that you do sign up to go if you're classes don't require you. I also recommend that you set your alarm for the right time, that way you don't sleep through the first trip like myself. Not only did all of the students say that the trip to two palaces in Madrid were amazing, but I also missed out on bonding a little more with my classmates. Basically, you want to go on the trips.
On my first saturday here, the study abroad program director organized a little unofficial trip to Toledo with the 4 students studying with Stony Brook, and some of our friends that we had met during our first week. We went by train, as we do when we travel to most places on our own, and it took us about 30 minutes. I should note that the train is very reasonable here in Spain. What's cool, besides the fact that it's this old city on a hill surrounded by a river, is the fact that in the dark ages Toledo flourished. This is a city that translated books into different languages, like the bible, during this period and preserved everything really well. My favorite part of the city is the Cathedral though. We couldn't take pictures, so I have nothing to show you. But it was amazing. The architecture and artwork inside were incredible. And they had been around since the 16th century. When you walk in it's very overwhelming.
For those of you who haven't noticed yet, I have the tendency to ramble on forever. This seems like a good place to stop as any. I'll post pictures in a separate entry out of convenience. If you've made it to the end, congratulations. If you see me at the end of the semester when you're out of meal points, I'll owe you a coke. Of course, I'll also be out by then so never mind. Hope you've taken something from my experiences thus far.

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