At home, I always felt at ease. My family was very religious. Pepe told me, “El Domingo tienenque verse guapapara la procession.” Señora Angeles was walking in the procession with a mantilla. I freshened up, after an excursion to Los Torruños and left for the procession with Pepe. Streets filled up with faithful spectators. All the Gaditanos, people from Cadiz, were in awe, gazing at the virgin. I saw señora Angeles brimming in pride. Pepe waved at her and she did the unthinkable, señora Angeles walked out of the line! She gave me a hug and told her friends, “Mira estaes mi hija,” “look, this is my daughter.”
In that instant, I knew I was part of their family. Like religion, bullfights are an important part of Spanish culture. The idea of killing a bull seemed inhumane and silly. When we went, families were fanning themselves shouting for their favorite torero. A loud baseball stadium is the only thing I can compare the atmosphere too. The beaches in Cadiz are incredible. Never have I lived so near to a beach in my life! My friends and I loved running to Playa Victoria after a long day. We would sit on the boardwalk and let the wind cool us off; I understand now why so many people jog along the beach.
A band played occasionally played jazz on the boardwalk. Until then, I had not noticed how beautifully endless the ocean is. Yoga on the beach was a personal favorite. The sounds of the waves really help you concentrate. Once, the sun was just setting and I was smiling on the inside. Beaches are incredibly relaxing. Carnivals are another staple of Cadiz. I luckily had a sample of the carnival spirit. Surrounding the cathedral, tractors carried groups of people singing spoof songs.
Groups gathered in street corners sharing their take in politics, of course through song. One group, or cumple as they call them, was making fun of the beauty pageant process. They sang in pasty suits and flashy makeup. El jurado de las miss, their name, motioned us to dance with them. One of the songs, Spanglish, was even dedicated to my friends and me. At the end of their performance, they gave us a book with all their songs. The next day they recognized us and called us over again. Spaniards are just remarkably friendly.
Cadiz is undoubtedly gorgeous. My sense of adventure and curiosity has matured after this trip. My month in Cadiz helped my Spanish tremendously, but more than that gave me a feel of the world. These memories make up a greater trip, something you cannot understand until you go. I am ready to see what else is out there now.
You have been studying Spanish for a number of years, what made you decide that you wanted to go abroad this summer? Well, I have been outside the country before but I had never “studied abroad.” I loved the idea of living in another country and having the experience to see and live inside another culture for a period of time and then be able to come back and compare both of those experiences to how I live.
I was looking at [program name removed] for a little bit and I also looked at [program name removed] and doing an actual year abroad, but I felt like Abbey Road had everything I was looking for in a program. The amount of time was long enough to be able to see and be part of another country and still be able to enjoy my summer. Also, the curriculum seemed really appealing versus some of the other programs I was looking at. I picked Cádiz specifically because I needed a homestay.
What kind of green/community service activities are you involved in that qualified you to apply to the Green Ticket Community Service Scholarship? Well right now I am at boarding school. I just started my junior year. I go to the White Mountain school and every year we have orientation trips where we go off and we do things like rafting, climbing, rock climbing and this year we are going backpacking and we live in the mountains. The trips are always based on just living in the environment and being really conscious about it. One of the things I was doing last year I was part of the Citizens of the world team.
We brought awareness to other students and the outside community about events that are going on in the world which isn’t necessarily environmental, but it has a lot to do with the way we are taking care of our home, people and where we live. Also, this year I am part of the sustainability club. Just being environmentally conscious and helping people has been a big part of my high school experience. Last year, I also went to Bioneers by the Bay, a weekend convention in New Bedford, MA where the talked about the environment. Greg Mortenson actually came and spoke at the conventions last year about how important and necessary these changes for the environment are.
What do think students should do to provide themselves with opportunities like this? I think they should be very aware. There are a bunch of opportunities out there already and it’s a matter of taking time out of your schedule to go looking for them. Also, not being afraid and don’t put things off! Be proactive. If you want to do something, figure out how you can accomplish it. Don’t be afraid to get out there!
Do you think it’s important for students your age to study abroad? Very much so. I remember when I came back from the summer I didn’t feel like it had a huge impact on my life, but there hasn’t been someone who hasn’t said, “Bianca you have become so mature.” I have heard that from so many people. Being out of the country and having that experience gives you a whole new perspective and that’s important when you are still in high school because you are still trying to figure things out and being able to go abroad gives you another perspective and I think that experience grounds you more.
As a fluent Spanish speaker, you were in the advanced Spanish class. How did you like the conversation-based nature of the class? I am fluent in Spanish and my Spanish class was largely based on conversation and culture, which I loved. Being fluent in Spanish, it was really nice to live in Spain because you got the chance to practice Spanish all the time. My class was entirely in Spanish and it really pushed us to speak. Our class also gave us a really interesting reference to the things we were seeing outside in the community. One class I can remember that really stood out to me was when we were talking about the politics in Spain and the economical situation.
It was really interesting to learn what was actually going on and how each party was this way and why a certain party was that way and why no one really liked the parliament right now. It was so enlightening because I had no idea. I went home that day and told my homestay family about the class and we continued to talk about it. It really opened my eyes to the idea that instead of just focusing on class and what your grade looks like you should focus on more on things, like what’s going on in the mews. It’s really important to have both perspectives. When I got back my parents really noticed that my grammar was a lot better. I loved my teacher and she was actually from Cadiz and had a really strong essence to her work. She was able to keep control in class while still being an impeccable teacher.
You mentioned how much you liked your Spanish teacher, what is your overall opinion about the Abbey Road Spain staff? The Abbey Road staff was really good about feeling out our group and figuring out how much time was too much and when we suggested things to them they were really accommodating. They always went back to the idea that this was our trip and so we got to make it our trip. [Also,] I thought they [the staff] all worked really well together, but as the students, they were really different, which was fun. They had done these trips so many times before and they had so many stories to tell you about previous trips and it was so funny to hear all the different stories.
One of your main priorities was a rewarding homestay experience, did you think you were matched well with your Spanish hosts? Describe the homestay experience. I loved my homestay family. They were just wonderful and they still keep in touch. They actually just sent me a card the other day. They didn’t have a child, but I really got close with the mother and the father was so funny. He was quite at first, but then he would start telling all these stories and start showing you newspaper articles and want to talk with you about them.
They really added so much to my experience. The people of Cadiz were super friendly too. One of the things that were really great about Cadiz was that I felt super safe. We would be walking around at 11 at night and I was so calm. I was glad to have that sense of security and just that feeling of safety was so nice.
You are still in contact with your homestay family, what about the other students you met on the trip? I have a pen pal relationship with one of the closest friends that I made. We write in Spanish to each other. It’s a great way to practice our Spanish and keep in touch. I need more help with my writing in Spanish and she wanted to keep in touch because she also goes to boarding school. One of the things about being away is that you love getting mail because you don’t get a bunch of it, so we became pen pals.
What type of student would you recommend this program to? Students who aren’t afraid to just go out there and do it and look a little silly sometimes. You have to be open to going up to someone and start talking to them in Spanish, even if you don’t know all the words. You have to realize that you are in a foreign country and you can appreciate the language aspect, but you should also appreciate the cultural aspect and have fun with it.
What advice would you give to a future Abbey Road student? I would tell them to realize that you are only there for a month. At first, it feels like a long time, but it’s only a month. You should get to know all the abbey roaders. They are all really nice and there for the same reason you are. And the host families are essential to the entire trip. They are incredible people and you should try to spend as much time with them. They are a blast. They are someone you are going to stay in touch with. My host family is coming next year to New York and we are going to meet up!
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