Bici y Habitus En Valencia

Yesterday I rented a bicycle for the next two weeks in Valencia. In so doing, I fulfilled my vision of living and working in Valencia. The bicycle is the perfect way to travel in this city. I cannot tell you the joy that I feel as I ride down the long bicycle paths that honeycomb the streets of Valencia, running parallel to both pedestrian and automobile traffic.

When the students saw my newly rented “bici” after class,
One told me “Professor don’t hurt yourself” as I narrowly turned around, just missing the cement wall near the university. :). Another asked if this is like re-living childhood. It really is – and this thought brings to mind a sociological concept that I have been noticing every day in Valencia: Habitus.

Habitus refers to embodied “positions and dispositions” that organize our world view (Bourdieu 1977). Habitus is a conservative force in our lives and in our bodies – bringing us back to the feelings and memories from our earliest societal interactions – typically with our families. How we feel and react when we encounter a new situation is shaped by our habitus.

I have watched the students work hard at their internships and encounter new foods, new languages and new situations. During this all, I noticed frequent references to those conditions of their childhood or early life calling to them. Despite Valencia’s reputation for phenomenal food, one student said to me, “I’m sick of rice – can we just have some plantains?”

This call from our personal past surfaces in unexpected ways while spending time in another culture. In so doing it helps reveal who we are. For me – the bici – brings an embodied sense of freedom in the world and memories of flying through my childhood neighborhood.

World Refugee Day – June 20, 2018

Elicia Waterman and Sonya Cabrera pictured here with daughter of Professor Pineros Shields at UN HCR World Refugee Day – a public education event on June 20, 2018.

The first day of their internship with the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), two UMASS Lowell students – Sonya Cabrera and Elicia Waterman – participated in World Refugee Day (June 20, 2018.  The UNHCR held a public display at Valencia’s city hall to educate local residents about the experiences of refugees in the world today.

Arriving at Logan Airport

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

Paella Dinner in Salem, MA

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.