Jet-lag, fatigue, excitement, restlessness, uncertainty, nervousness — a mixed bag of feelings ran through my body and mind as we took our first steps on Spain’s soil. Upon landing, I was coming up on my 26th hour of consciousness – aside from the measly 15 to 20 minute spurts of sleep I experienced for the first hour or so on our plane ride over – and slowly felt my attention span dwindling; my level of patience was plummeting, and I was being unforgivingly reminded of just how valuable sleep can be to the human brain. I was eager to begin our journey, just as much I was to settle in at the residence hall and take an enormous nap after what was my longest day of traveling to date.
Meeting our mentors and Carles for the first time at the airport was a pleasure, and they assisted in making our transition into Valencia a smooth and effortless encounter – something I’m sure we are all tremendously grateful for. Their kindness, in hindsight, was a sign of things to come. Even though there has been a slight language barrier between the locals of Valencia and myself, I have been able to effectively communicate with people and recognize the astounding level of hospitality that people of this region hold. I have yet to feel unsafe in any scenario *knocks on wood* and the people here have been very patient and welcoming when speaking with me. I may not yet be able to engage into deep conversation and find out intricate details about people’s personal lives, but I am certainly able to navigate my way throughout Valencia and get by on a day to day basis. I look forward to learning more about the area, as well as enhancing my Spanish through my every day encounters.
Now that the jet lag has seemed to wear off and I have established somewhat of a routine, I am beginning to love this experience and am optimistic for what the future of this trip holds for not only myself, but for all of us in this program. Admittedly, there are still times where I miss home and I miss my loved ones, but in the back of my mind, I know that these six weeks will go by quickly and I will be back in the United States before I know it. So, I am just taking this experience in stride and learning to appreciate every second of it; whether good or bad. The challenge of adapting to a new culture and language is refreshing and something I will reflect on for the rest of my life.
Today at my internship I had a very exciting experience that I would like to share, involving the Museu del H’orta Sud and a local communications agency that works closely with the museum. Just a few doors down from the museum is the Inspeccio de Servicis Departament which is a local government office containing all different kinds of work. Within that office is their communications team, who helps the museum with gathering and spreading information as well as contacting representatives of different regions across the country. One of the many ways the museum advertises itself is through social media, and they have a Facebook page where they share pictures, videos and events to connect with young people via the internet. Because of my interest in writing and journalism, Clara (museum employee who I have been working with) decided to introduce me to a few people within this office. Among those people was a woman named Sofia who is a local journalist and friend of Clara. She was intrigued that I am a student of journalism and told me that she wants to write a small piece about me and our study abroad program, and how I am working with the museum. Although I did not understand everything that she said to me in Spanish, I am excited that I am being given an opportunity to represent our school and our program here in Valencia. In a few days I will send her an email with some information about me, and why I chose to travel to Valencia to work in this museum. Seeing journalism in action across the world is very exciting to me, and I am so glad that Sofia reached out to me to share our program with the locals in Torrent.
Monday June 18th 2018,
I arrived to a brand new country with fellow students and our professor. I did not know what to expect in taking this once in a life time opportunity except to make the most out of it. This is the first time I have left the country of the United States let alone the continent of North America.
Now that I have had a couple of days to settle down, I have already come to love the experience. I feel like I am a new-born who has just entered the world with open eyes. I realized that the language barrier is an obstacle that will take time to overcome but, I have put my utmost effort into attempting to understand the bare bones. It became very evident when I tried ordering breakfast in the morning. The key to utilizing the little Spanish skills I have was my hand gestures. I may have looked like a hooligan to the customers behind me but I was able to get my point across. In other’s eyes it may have seemed that I was embarrassed but I enjoyed every second of the interaction. As this journey continues, I will contribute 100% of myself to make meaningful experiences.
On Sunday June 17, 2018, nine UMASS Lowell students travelled to Valencia, Spain with Dr. Thomas Pineros Shields, Lecturer in the Department of Sociology for a six-week internship and civic and cultural learning experience.
Our first seminar was held in the terminal E near the gate for our flight. Students wrote letters of advice from a future version of themselves to help them clarify their goals and expectations for this trip. We also reviewed the “good, the bad and the ugly” aspects of behavioral expectations on this trip. Finally, we began a discussion about cultural competency during an international experience. Students left with homework of developing questions to ask our hosts on Tuesday morning at our orientation.
Logan Airport – June 17, 2018
Elicia, Brianna, Professor Tom, Anthony, Sonya and Franchesca at paella dinner in Salem, MA. June 10, 2018
Five students who will be travelling with me to València, Spain accepted an invitation to visit my home for a seafood paella prepared by my wife, Alexandra. We discussed our hopes and plans for the trip, answering questions and discussing issues on a cool night in Salem, MA. One of the issues that came up involved the Spanish language. While several students are native Spanish speakers, they worried that people would not understand them. My wife, a native Spanish speaker, pointed out to them that Castilian is neither better or worse than the Spanish i their home country. It is just different. On this night, we also pledged to watch out for each other and to never leave anyone behind. :). It was a lovely evening having such thoughtful and interesting dinner guests.