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Beedie ’11 Reflects on Semester in Spain

Chris Beedie ’11 - My semester in Spain was definitely a memorable one. Studying abroad gave me an amazing opportunity to fully immerse myself in the Spanish language, which has proven invaluable to me in my study of the language and my desire to teach Spanish in the future. The program I studied with is a part of the Hispanic Studies program of the University of Virginia. The program has been located in Valencia for over 25 years and prides itself on its content and mission. My classes were taught by extremely knowledgeable and passionate professors willing to help us advance out study of the Spanish language, literature, and culture in any way possible. 

My semester was one filled with the “locura” of Don Quijote, a study of modern Spanish literature which included a whole segment focused on the historical memory of the harsh reality of the repression and hunger that existed during and after the Spanish civil war, a study of short stories and their adaptations in Spanish cinema, as well as a study of the Spanish economy, its historical evolution, and characteristics today.

My home life in Valencia provided me with just as many learning opportunities as the classroom. I spent the semester living with a retired university professor who has now hosted American students in her home for ten years. Charo, as we called her, made sure that my roommate and I never left the dinner table anything less than absolutely stuffed with food, and will probably be retelling the story of the infamous “día de los espagutis” to her students for some time – I think I saw my life flash before my eyes trying to finish the mountain of spaghetti on the table, but like good sons Derrick and I conquered the giant pile of food…but not before roughly an hour had passed. 

Charo’s sense of hearing can also be compared to that of, well, whatever animal has the most acute sense of hearing…and if she even had the faintest suspicion that we were speaking English somewhere in the apartment, she would run in and begin scolding us. The experiences I had with Charo are definitely unforgettable and it is hard to recall a time when the three of us didn’t spend the majority of dinner laughing together. I also think that it is safe to say someone could write a book or TV series centered on the relationship between Charo and the woman who helped her clean the apartment, Mari Carmen. Although Mari Carmen was prone to breaking things and Charo quick to critique her cleaning methods, Mari Carmen was always ready to rescue Charo when she would somehow get trapped inside various rooms of the apartment.

I don’t think anyone who has visited Valencia during March can write about their experience without mentioning Las Fallas. A 19-day celebration that ends in the burning of hundreds of giant and intricately designed sculptures, Las Fallas is unlike anything I have experienced before. Every day at 2 pm rang out the unforgettable words “Senyor pirotécnic, pot començar la mascletà,” which in English basically translates to “get ready for ten minutes of insanely loud explosions.” In Valencia these firework shows that occurred at 2 pm are nothing like what we think of in America. For starters, it is 2 pm! Therefore it goes without saying that the people of Valencia are not really interested in the pretty lights of the fireworks, but rather seeing how much explosive they can pack into each firework to make them as loud as possible. Luckily, before I left to see my first mascletà my host mom reminded me to keep my mouth open and to not cover my ears while the fireworks were set off…so that I wouldn’t rupture my ear drums! It truly is hard to describe a mascletà in words, and it really is something you have to experience, or better yet feel, as the explosions are that powerful.
 
In short, my experience in Spain was an unforgettable one. From my classes and amazing professors to the laughter that probably drove our neighbors crazy every night from 9:30 to 10:30, I can’t think of anything more I could have wished for in a study abroad experience. The semester truly was a blessing and a phenomenal opportunity to study Spanish in an environment so committed to academics as that of the University of Virginia Hispanic Studies program.

旅行: Shenzhen

 

The past weekend was without doubt one of the best weekends I’ve had since I came to China in January. I was able to see the beautiful Shenzhen metropolis and hang out with two great Wabash guys from the class of 2014.

As you might recall from my previous notes, during my trip to Hong Kong in April I met up with Jack Yuan’14. During our meeting, Jack invited me to visit Shenzhen, his hometown. We further discussed this idea when I returned to Shanghai and with Jack’s invaluable help I quickly finalized all the travel arrangements. I left on Thursday evening and spent three days in Shenzhen. I found this city to be extremely interesting. Just thirty years ago, Shenzhen was a small fishing village. However, in the 1980s Deng Xiaoping designated it to be the first Special Economic Zone in China. This establishment proved to be very successful and Shenzhen started developing at a very fast pace. Today it is one of the most prosperous cities in China and an important player in shaping future relations with Hong Kong. Shenzhen, however, has a lot more to offer than its interesting history. I fell in love with its energizing tropical weather and a great amount of green space. The ability to travel to Hong Kong in less than two hours also makes Shenzhen a great city to live in.

More important than the places I visited though were the people I spent time with last weekend. I had a chance to get to know Jack a lot better. Now I’m really sure that he is a person with whom I will be spending a lot of time during my senior year at Wabash. Apart from Jack, I also had the chance to hang out with Songying Fan’14. I corresponded with Songying since January, but on Friday I was finally able to meet him in person. He is a really great guy who will bring a very unique perspective to our campus. Songying has a lot more life and work experience than an average college freshman. As a consequence, he really appreciates the opportunity of gaining education again and is ready to work very hard at Wabash.

I will tell you everything when we meet at Wabash in August, but I cannot find the words to describe how hospitable Jack and Fan were to me during my weekend in Shenzhen. Never before in my life have I experienced so much hospitality from people who are not members of my family.

When you have a minute, please welcome Songying and Jack to our college. Both of them are really excited to become part of our community. You can contact Jack at jackyuan1017@gmail.com and Songying at fsy2014@163.com.