Haz el bien, y no mires a quién. -Spanish Proverb

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The “study” part of Study Abroad

I’ve hardly said a word about school here in Spain, partially because I don’t want to bore anyone and partially because it really is only a fraction of the entire experience itself. The most tangible goals of studying abroad are to earn college credit (in my case, for a Spanish minor) and to beef up your résumé, but as anyone who has studied abroad knows, that goal is almost secondary to the learning and discovering that comes from the experience in its entirety.

That said, I AM attending college courses at la Univerisdad del Pais Vasco (University of the Basque Country), and I’d like to tell you a little bit about it… 🙂

My classes are part of USAC‘s program, so they’re specially designed for foreign students and not part of UPV’s “normal” curriculum. That is how most study abroad programs work, I assume. This program has four “tracks”, or levels, and I was (somehow) placed in the highest track. I can say now, halfway through the semester, that being in the highest track has really been bittersweet. I feel like it’s a good challenge, but at the same time I could really use the review of some of the basics of grammar and verbs, etc. that I didn’t learn very well the first time around. It takes being in another country to realize how little of their language you really know! I need to do a better job of brushing up on some of my basics in my free time.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I start at 11am with a conversation class. I ended up being the only student in the Track 4 conversation class, so it’s just my teacher and I, and I really don’t mind that it turned out that way. There’s certainly no room for slacking off or zoning out, but I just view it as an hour-long private Spanish lesson. Not bad at all. At noon, I head to my Civilization and Culture class (there’s a whopping TWO students in that one!), which I really enjoy too because I’m learning so much about Spain’s history, customs and traditions WHILE living here. That comes in quite handy on several occasions. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have two classes starting at 10am with the same professor, Juan. My friends and I lovingly refer to him (amongst ourselves!) as our Spanish grandpa. He is always teasing us about the amount of chocolate and coffee we consume, accusing us of chasing boys, and telling us to lay off the kalimotxo on the weekends. After arriving late to two of his classes in a row, Juan now refers to me as: Megan…My favorite disaster. I have two classes with him back to back: Stylistics, which is largely an advanced grammar/usage class, and Spanish Literature. Taking a literature class, for me, is like pulling teeth. I always want to and try to enjoy Literature, but at the end of the day I’m just a science geek…I have a hard time slowing down to the pace of literature interpretation, though I do think it is valuable and meaningful in its own right. The lit class I’m taking here is growing on me, though. I appreciate that it’s teaching me more about Spanish history, giving me practice with reading comprehension and maybe even making me more reflective and other profound things like that :-p …Thanks for that, Juan 🙂

I find that, when it comes to studying, I have a bit of study-abroad-induced attention deficit. Knowing that such an exciting new world is literally out my front door, it’s hard to stay in and study. Needless to say, I get a lot more homework done on rainy days than on sunny ones.

I haven’t posted any pics of the campus of UPV because, well…there’s truly nothing to see. And I wouldn’t just say that. There are two campuses–one homely-looking one in Leioa where all the Spanish classes are and one more handsome-looking one in the center of Bilbao. Since I’m only taking Spanish classes, I only experience the unaesthetic one. One big difference between campuses in the US and campuses here is that here, there is no emphasis whatsoever on “campus life” like in the US. In the States, we’re encouraged to hang out with friends on campus, meet up for study groups on campus, eat on campus and even spend our leisure time at on-campus activities. And a lot of us do most of those things. Most of us live on or very near campus for at least a part of our time in college, whereas here there is no on-campus housing. Most students in Spain live at home with their parents at least until they graduate college, and if they don’t live at home there is no dorm-style housing, so they just live in off-campus flats. Moral of the story: the need for a campus to be visually appealing is a lot less, since students simply come here for class and maybe a coffee or lunch, and then they leave.

Now, having said all of that, the people at UPV would probably appreciate if I mention that the campus IS under a lot of renovation right now, and within a couple of years will probably look a lot less disheveled. I do have one nice picture, taken from one of my classroom windows looking out into the open center courtyard inside the main building on campus:

UPV Biblioteca Central

UPV Biblioteca Central

Speaking of school, I have a couple of presentations tomorrow so I really should be getting around to preparing them.

¡Que pases una buena semana!