Carlos Delgado, BA '19, had a very immersive experience while studying abroad on the Intensive Spanish In Alicante program. His biggest take away from his study abroad experience was "sometimes it is necessary to get out of your comfort zone in order to live. By studying abroad, I have never felt more alive in every sense of the word." Read more below:
How did studying abroad impact your social identity(s)?
I was given a new perspective on how the world can be so small, yet enormous at the same time. I was surrounded by people that had the same concerns in life as I did back home; the same goals, aspirations, dreams, and complaints and highlights of their days. Yet, I was thousands of miles away, across an ocean in a land which many people where I am from would never get to see. To “fit in” and be a foreigner in the context of the program was definitely an eye-opening experience that struck a chord with me.
Describe the food! What did you survive on?
The food was amazing, to say the least. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t eat. I would have to say that the best meals were the meals that my host family prepared for me. I distinctly remember a bowl of soup traditional in Salamanca (where my host family was from) that consisted of beans and slow cooked sausages that you could cut with a dull fork. There was the Spanish tortilla as well, which is radically different from the Mexican tortilla that I was raised with. It is a potato “cake”, and it is served in slices. I could eat an entire one if given the chance. The paella we had at our reception luncheon was magnificent as well. Aside from their traditional dishes, the "Spanish take" on foods that are more familiar in the U.S. was also interesting. Everything tasted different; it was just simply better. I remember asking my host mother about this difference, and she went on to explain the differences between processing techniques between the U.S. and Spain, as well as the unique weather system that allowed for distinct oils and wines to be produced in the Valencian province. These ingredients are used in many dishes in the area.
Describe a time in which you were immersed in your host culture. What was challenging or exciting about this?
The time in which I felt most immersed in the culture was the week of the Hogueras, which can be generally described as a celebration of the summer solstice in the province. Las Hogueras consists of a week-long festival, in which each neighborhood or “Hoguera” has a social center in which the summer solstice is celebrated. Each Hoguera has an artist that constructs a monument and, at the end of the week, each monument is set on fire as a culmination of the celebration. The night that the monuments were set on fire was one of the most unforgettable nights of my life. The entire city of Alicante was alive deep into the night, celebrating the culmination of a week of celebration amongst the flames of the monuments. That night, there were no tourists, students, or strangers. We were only Alicantinos celebrating the night, and living in the moment. It was the most immersive moment in the five weeks I spent studying in Alicante.
What do you miss most about your study abroad program or location?
The things I miss the most about Alicante and the program are the people and the places. You meet new people every day from all over the world. This includes people who have been there only one day and people who have been there for months. Each person has something unique that they can show you as a fellow student or resident of Alicante. The locations we visited were amazing as well. I will never forget the different spots my group of friends and I would visit after class to unwind and eventually study. They were cozy and they became our niches. Despite being foreigners, these areas felt like they had been our hangout spots for our entire lives. Aside from the usual haunts, there was always something new to see, or something more a previously visited place had to offer. I feel I could have spent lifetimes in Alicante and would only ever see a fraction of what the city and area had to offer.
How did studying abroad positively affect your personal, professional, or academic life?
Studying abroad simplified my goals. Most students worry and stress about their academic careers and let details mandate or affect the larger aspects of their lives. I had the same mentality. Studying abroad was a stressful decision before departing because I did not know what to expect, or what would happen. I wanted to be in control of everything. However, everything was eventually sorted out as things progressed. Everything always did work out, and more often than not for the best. My biggest takeaway, in any context as a professional, student, or person, is that sometimes it is necessary to get out of your comfort zone in order to live. By studying abroad, I have never felt more alive in every sense of the word.