Before I came to Madrid, one night at dinner, my dad and I had an uncharacteristically sentimental conversation. He asked me a bunch of questions about my upcoming study abroad experience that ranged from the typical “why did you decide to study abroad?” and “where do you want to travel in Europe?” to the less typical “at the end of the semester, what to you want to make sure you don’t say?” This was obviously a strange question, but I understood what he wanted to ask me: he wanted to know what I hope I don’t regret at the end of the semester.
This was a pretty easy thing for me to answer: “I don’t want to have spent all my time studying,” I said. Seeing my mom’s reaction, I quickly reassured them that I would take my classes seriously and work hard, but that I didn’t want to regret having had to say “no” to new experiences due to homework.
After a miserable Spring semester followed by a summer of 12 weeks of Organic Chemistry and Lab, I wanted more than anything to not spend my time stuck in a classroom, but use my time in Spain experiencing all that the country has to offer outside the classroom. Despite this, I’ve found that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both my classes and the associated work here in Spain.
I am currently taking three program classes and receiving another credit for my internship (which you can read about here!). I am taking Advanced Spanish Language, the required Spanish grammar class; En Boca de Mujer, a feminist Spanish literature class; and Sketchbook: Walking in the City, a drawing class. These classes are obviously very different than the science-heavy curriculum I am used to as a pre-med at Tufts; but given that my academic interests range from art to anthropology to anatomy, I can concretely say that I love the diversity of classes I have the opportunity to take here.
Though I expected the grammar class here to be just like any other Spanish class I have taken, I have been surprised at how different it is. Enrique (our wonderful professor) bounces around the classroom while talking and scribbling important phrases on the whiteboard. His endearing repetition of the word “bien” as a transition has meant that we have all worked it into our ever-expanding Spanish vocabulary. Though language classes are difficult to teach, as they are often full of students with a range of levels and specific difficulties, Enrique has done a great job hitting the highlights of the hardest parts of the Spanish language. And I can say that I now know how to use “if clauses!”
In addition to the study of the Spanish language with Enrique, I discuss Spanish literature in Bethania’s class. Not only is Bethania incredible to listen to, she is always wanting to listen to us. In this class we have surveyed Spanish feminist literature from the 1600’s to the present day. During the semester we have read some incredible works and watched some beautiful movies, but more importantly we’ve had countless fantastic conversations about the role of women throughout history, and the continued fight for our rights.
Finally, I am taking an art class. Though my distribution requirement of 2 credits of art classes has already been met through art history and dance classes at Tufts, I decided to take a drawing class. This class is unique in that it moves around the city allowing us to both learn about drawing and learn about our new home. We’ve visited museums, gardens, and cafés to give our art a more wholesome context. As someone who hasn’t drawn since she was required to in elementary school, I can definitely say I’ve learned a lot in the past few months, and have a great, newfound appreciation for all the artists I love.
Though I didn’t come to Spain to study in the classroom, I can’t imagine my experience here without my classes. Not only has the context in which I take them reshaped my understanding of the classes, but the content of my classes has also challenged me to think more deeply about my opinions, the world around me, and myself. Which, after all, is why I came to Tufts.