EMILY FRITZSON- Let’s be honest: everyone talks about how academics take a backseat while you’re abroad. And I’d definitely say that’s true. But I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily learning less as a result. If I had to summarize my study abroad experience, I’d say this: I am learning as much, if not more, here as I am at Skidmore, just in a different way.
Everyone also tells you that classes abroad become something where you just go through the motions to get a passing grade. But what I’ve found is that I really enjoy and looking forward to my classes here. And that is because the Tufts-Skidmore Spain program thrives at what they do. Sure, we get less homework and not nearly as much of my attention is directed towards assignments and grades as it is at Skidmore. But what I have learned here has been almost more valuable than any book smarts I would have gained if I had been on Skidmore’s New York campus this semester.
Our classes are built to support the real-world knowledge that we acquire just from interacting with our surroundings here in Spain. And I cannot speak more highly of my professors, because they know exactly how to achieve this. More than that, their passion for their subject and teaching shines through their classes. Like my Skidmore professors, my professors here are approachable and always willing to answer questions or talk to you individually.
At the program, I’m enrolled in the Spanish grammar class that we are all required to take in addition to a Transatlantic Literature class. I initially thought I was just signing up for a typical Spanish language class and English class (in Spanish) respectively. But now, nearing the end of the semester, I have a really hard time boxing these classes into such narrow categories.
I’ve taken multiple Spanish language classes at Skidmore, but my class with Enrique, our professor, is unlike anything I’ve ever taken before. Our small class of just nine students feels more like an hour and twenty minutes of hanging out with friends while speaking in Spanish because we laugh and joke around so much. Yet we are still productive. We learn vocabulary and grammar points that we can use at restaurants and shops, and with our Spanish mentors and families. After just two weeks of grammar classes, my host family told me that they’d noticed a big difference in my speaking skills, which I attribute to Enrique’s class.
We also have outside “field trips” that support what we learn in class. Just this past week, all of Enrique’s grammar classes went to the theater to see Cien años de perdón, a recently released blockbuster. I had never been to the movies in Spain before, so it was not only a learning experience to listen to the Spanish being spoken in the film, but it was also a fun, new cultural experience for me.
In February, in my Transatlantic Literature class, we read Luces de Bohemia by Ramón María del Valle-Inclán. Once we finished, we met one evening to walk around the city to retrace the steps of the journey of the main character, Max Estrella. How often do you get to do that?? Similarly, this past week, our class saw the play Bodas de Sangre since we just finished reading the play during class time. As much as I love Skidmore, never has my learning in the classroom been so applicable to the world around me as it has been here. Our program is tailored perfectly to take advantage of this city, the place that has been so incredibly conducive to my learning. Yet another reason that studying abroad, especially on this program, has been such a wonderful experience!