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Six: El Fin

A Spanglish (ish) post. And my final post. I graduate in 3 weeks.

My first real posts of substance on this blog were written in Granada, and Nerja, Spain. Now, a year later, I sometimes wonder if I'll ever really be able to engage my Spanish skills again. Hoy, parece que España está a más de un año y a 4.451 millas de distancia.

I was supposed to go to South America. I wonder how this post (really this blog as a whole and the entire direction of my academic work in the Eastman Program) would've been different if I had. But COVID ruins everything. That seems to be the theme of my past two years. Though if not COVID it would likely have been something else, I guess. Maybe "ruins" is too strong of a word.

When I realized I couldn't go to Costa Rica or Chile, I decided that it would be worth it to try for Spain. That's how I ended up there, and that's how I ended up here. I did and do genuinely want to learn more of the language. And I saw Spain as an opportunity to do some self-reflection on my blog in the process. To Spain I went, and self-reflection I did indeed. It did not go how I expected it to go (as you know if you've read my previous posts). I did learn some Spanish though, y también algunas cosas sobre mí mismo, no creo que fuera todo por nada, but Spanish and my trip to Spain is the one loose end in this program experience that I can’t quite tie up. Which maybe is okay, there’s space for missteps in this program, and I find that to be very valuable. Without Spain this blog would be kind of empty, at the very least. And I wouldn't be able to order food in Spanish? I’d really like to go back to Granada at some point with friends who I love when I’m not so scared of COVID, because the city is really wonderful and it would be nice to make things right with it, but that’s way further in the future than I can conceptualize.

Learning a new language is hard. Study abroad is...harder. And I think that in my past study abroad experiences I didn't realize how helpful it is to have a friend with you along for the trip. The peoples I met in Spain were nice, but we didn't click. I often see them still hanging out together on social media and wonder why they didn't seem to like me. I think unfortunately it had a lot to do with my attitude toward drinking and clubbing while we were there.

Americans have really turned studying abroad into something for young people who want to go to a foreign country where they can drink every night and find someone cute to hook up with for the duration of their trip. It's not really about studying? And I don't know that that's necessarily a bad thing in a Western country like Spain or England, but when that bleeds into countries with very different cultural expectations around drinking and casual sex, it begs the question: what should study abroad really be about?

For the native Spanish students that I met, it was absolutely about drinking. They really encouraged it for the Americans. The day after I arrived I remember a girl with a broken foot (she broke it at a bar a few nights prior) asking me "¿Estás lista para emborracharte? " and I laughed it off and said sure, but I knew that I absolutely would not be doing that. It was a sharp contrast to the month I spent in India and Nepal, where we were asked not to drink at all. I think that in general, I find Americans' fascination with drinking alcohol as an activity in and of itself to be a little odd. And I find the illusion that the purpose of doing an abroad program is to drink to be even odder (and I don't mean trying alcohol with dinner, I mean getting so drunk that you can't walk yourself home properly and you end up throwing up all over your host families bathroom walls).

It's especially frustrating to me that that's actually where a lot of the girls on my trip were able to practice their Spanish the most. That's not the experience I wanted as an introvert with pandemic anxiety, but I still wanted the opportunity to learn the language all the same.

Y sí, puedo escribir partes de mi blog en español, pero si tú quieres queue yo tener una conversación con alguien, mi mente es un espacio en blanco.

My point in bringing this up again isn't to scold people who do want to have this experience, or say that one type of study abroad is inherently superior to the other. But I do want to encourage Eastman Leader's especially to be conscious of this dynamic before they go on their abroad programs. I think that's the last thing I want to do before I leave this program, actually.

I’m still really interested in the idea of global citizenship and how it is combined with and is influenced by white saviorism and service learning. And of all the paths I could've taken in this program, I wish I explored this further.

I don’t think you can get on a plane and know a place. That opinion is informed by people like Tayla Zemach-Bersin who demonstrates that “American students who travel abroad cannot be expected to transcend historical, political, social, and global systems of power in order to become cross-culturally immersed ‘global citizens.’” Unless students take a religious studies class or have an especially mindful professor, many might fully grasp that there are historical, political, and social systems of power to be transcended. Surely the people on my program in Granada didn’t fully grasp that. I imagine a lot of Eckerd students don’t either; and what would happen if they ended up outside of Western Europe? I think that’s genuinely scary to think about, and it’s an intellectual question that’s laid underneath a lot of the work I’ve done in this program, but even after my study abroad, I’m not sure how to meaningfully address it.

Members of the Eastman Program are incredibly lucky to be able to continue examining this question, and although for me it feels like a loose end, it could more optimistically be seen as a thread for a future Eastman leader to pick up in the future. I hope they do. And I hope, perhaps, this blog can help them navigate that endeavor.

Y espero que aprendan más español (u otro idioma) de lo que tuve el tiempo y la capacidad para hacerlo.

I feel like this conclusion is kind of abrupt. But life is sort of abrupt too. I wish that I had more time and energy and capacity to more formally finish this blog, and do it in a more meaningful way, but maybe that's not reality. In 18 days I walk across the stage on Kappa Field. It feels like two weeks ago I was standing in a circle with my Autumn Term class doing introductions while my mom and dad listened to Professor Ramsey talk about Eckerd. So my apologies for my brevity and lack of complete and meaningful conclusions, but know that I do know things. And I know lots more things as a result of the Eastman Program. And that's cool, I think.

Nos vemos,

Leah B.

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