Alexsandra Dos Reis is an international student from Brazil currently studying at Oregon State. During Summer 2012, Alexsandra studied at la Universidad de Salamanca through the Academic Programs International’s (API) Spanish Language and Culture Program. At Oregon State, Alexsandra is majoring in Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS) and has a minor in Spanish.
In the summer of 2012, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain. This is one of the best choices I have ever made. I was able to learn Spanish and visit so many places in Spain that I could only dream of. From the city of Madrid to the warm blue oceans of Cadiz, Spain was incredible. Not only was I able to be in Spain, but I chose the perfect summer to go. While I was in Spain, the Eurocup was going on as well; this made my experience so much more worthwhile.
In Madrid, Spain I got to step right smack dab in the middle of the country. This was part of Puerta del Sol or “Gate of the Sun”—one of the best and busiest places in Madrid, where many events are held for the city.
Cadiz, Spain was one of the most beautiful places we visited. The entire city looked like a blank white canvas with all the white buildings. The ocean was the warmest ocean I have ever been in and I never wanted to leave. This was just one of the many different wonderful places we visited, but definitely my favorite.
One of the most amazing things that I saw every day for two months living in Salamanca was the new cathedral that is connected to the old one. Every city had a cathedral which was the tallest building and this one was the most beautiful. I was able to visit inside and go on top to view the city. Being able to see this every morning when I woke up was the best part of my day.
I’m so happy that I studied abroad in Spain while the Eurocup was happening. I have never felt so part of the community. The celebration was incredible. It didn’t matter who you were, where you were or what you were doing. You could hear fireworks and people celebrating everywhere. You felt as one, even with strangers. Soccer and especially the Eurocup is such a big part of Spanish culture and if you don’t enjoy it, you will after you leave.
Since I decided to study abroad during the summer, everyone in Spain was on summer vacation. All the students that were attending school were students that were studying abroad too, so the structure of school was a little different. School was great, it would start at 8 AM but you would be done for the day by 1 PM. I was able to learn a lot because the teachers were all native Spanish speakers and were able to work so well with all of us learning the language. I learned a lot especially in understanding Spanish. My speaking skills did improve, but not as much as I had hoped.
A part of it was the program I went to study abroad with. I studied abroad with Academic Program International (API) and this included about 20 students from the U.S. I feel that we as a group were together a lot and actually did not speak much Spanish to each other. This really affected learning more Spanish because speaking English was the easy way out for all of us.
Another part that really affected learning to speak more Spanish was that I went to study abroad with a native Spanish speaking friend. Though I loved experiencing everything with a friend the most important part was improving my Spanish and this was a bad choice on my part. I ended up relying on her a lot when shopping or trying to communicate with other people, even our host mother.
I was not only able to improve my Spanish while living there, I learned so much about the culture and how it is so different than the U.S. Being born in Brazil, living in the United States and studying abroad in Spain, I got to learn a lot and compare all three. The relaxed feeling of the culture in Spain and all their siestas (naps) was so comforting. It just seemed like everyone there took the time to do their work, but to enjoy life and all the simple things. It seemed to be the same in Brazil. In the U.S. everyone seems like they are always rushing or have something to do and it is so stressful even if you are not that person. Being in a community where everyone takes the time for everything was relaxing and very stress free.