Seizing Each Opportunity

Joey Rasich - Seville, Spain

As an international business and Spanish major, I always knew I wanted to study abroad. Before I traveled to Seville, I always considered Spanish as my secondary major, just a means to pad my resume. With hopes of going into corporate America directly after college, I never considered my passion for Spanish. When I got to Spain, all of that changed. The immersion in the culture caused me to reconsider everything I believed about my future goals.

From the moment I arrived, I fell in love with the culture. My school didn't offer classes between 2 pm and 5 pm to compensate for a siesta during the hottest hours of the day, I was informed that dinner would be served around 9:30 pm, and I was greeted by the 3rd largest cathedral in the world. Little did I know at the time that I would walk by this nearly 500 yr old monument every day I went to class.JoeyI had the opportunity to take a class on Spain's history and I realized how little we are taught about European history even though it has such a direct correlation with the foundation of our nation. It was also interesting to learn about the independence process in America from another point of view. In addition to the wealth of knowledge that I obtained from these classes, I was able to see real world examples of everything I was learning about. From touring the cathedral and seeing (one of) Christopher Columbus' tomb(s) to visiting the "house of silver," where it is said 85% of the world's silver has passed through due to Seville's role as the sole port for everything coming back to Europe from the New World, I was able to make valuable real world connections to what I was learning about.

Aside from the history, I was finally able to put my Spanish education to use. Although it took a couple of weeks to finally feel comfortable speaking solely in Spanish to communicate within my school, my home stay, and all the shops and restaurants around the city, I felt an overwhelming satisfaction with my Spanish language education. JoeyBy the same token, I began to understand how little my previous education had taught me about Spanish culture. Everywhere I went I learned something new and how much American customs are ingrained even in our Spanish. For example, during the first week of my Spanish for Business class our professor passing around a handout and each student would say "gracias" when they received their papers. Afterwards she looked at all of us and in Spanish stated "I know that my handouts are satisfactory, I don't need each individual student to reaffirm that for me." As Americans, we were accustomed to saying thank you for everything that was done for us, but to the Spanish this use of "gracias" was excessive. In my experience in the US I never had a Spanish teacher tell me about these slight cultural nuances and there is no better way to pick up on them than to completely submerge oneself in the culture. It was the small experiences like this that made me truly appreciate my study abroad experience. The fact that I had the opportunity to learn so much about another culture and still get credit for taking classes has inspired me to reconsider what I want to do with the rest of my life and has prompted me to research participating in another study abroad.