F&M in Madrid: May 22-July 1, 2017

        F&M in Madrid is a unique 5-week program that provides students with an opportunity to travel to an incredible city with a diverse group of F&M students and professors. We were able to understand the culture at a deeper level through the material taught in our two classes – Spain in the 21st Century and Of Murders and Outcasts. Spain in the 21st Century provided us with a new perspective on the stereotypes, traditions, and history of the Spanish culture. Of Murders and Outcasts was a literature class that focused on the different types of mystery novels. The combination of both of these classes provided us with a great understanding of Madrid, as well as pushed us to work on our Spanish writing and communication skills every day. They also included weekly trips to new cities, such as Escorial, Salamanca, Segovia, and Toledo. We also visited a variety of Madrid’s most popular museums. Aside from the academics, in our homestays we truly immersed ourselves into the culture which provided for an enriching and memorable experience.

        The best way to truly understand a culture is to experience it. To speak the language, eat the food, and live with the people. F&M in Madrid is the perfect program to experience Madrid’s culture because it focuses on pushing us outside of our comfort zones by placing us in different homestays scattered across the city. At first it was overwhelming to speak Spanish during every meal and to take public transportation to and from every destination. My host parents didn’t speak English and I certainly wasn’t fluent in Spanish – but I soon realized that this was part of the fun. I had never spoken Spanish out of the classroom and here I was speaking it 24/7 and getting to fully experience the Spanish culture. My host parents took me to the El Rastro, an enormous outdoor flea market, walked me through Parque Retiro, and taught me how to make Spanish tortilla. With the combination of these experiences and the material taught in the classroom, the program provides the perfect balance of comfort and discomfort. Being with F&M faculty and other students, you never travel alone and always have a support system with you, but living with a host family gives you the full, worthwhile experience.

                  After four weeks in Madrid, I could comfortably order a bocadillo de calamares, knew all the best gelato places, and could use public transportation without batting an eye. I no longer experienced stage fright when someone asked me a question in Spanish and I was finally getting used to the heat. After a month in Spain, we were ready to make our way home with a new understanding of the Spanish culture, an increased ability to converse in Spanish, and a lot of stories to tell. I had tried new foods, travelled to the Eastern and Northern coasts of Spain, and made new friends. Most importantly, however, I was able to make strides towards becoming fluent in Spanish and grew as both a student and a person. 

by Becky McCain

Our department encourages students to study abroad and to experience Hispanic cultures first hand. Most of our majors and minors take advantage of this opportunity and spend a semester or summer in a Spanish speaking country.  Here are some of their stories: 

Anna Ming Bauer '18, Spanish minor: 

El semestre pasado, participé en un programa de School for International Training que se llama, “Salud pública en ambientes urbanos” en Buenos Aires, Argentina. El programa fue completamente en español, entonces las clases fueron enseñadas en español, y afuera de clase, todos nosotros vivimos con familias anfitrionas. Tomé las siguientes clases: Epidemiology and Social Determinants of Health, Health Systems, Policies, and Programs, Spanish for Health Sciences, and Public Health Research Methods and Ethics. Además de las cuatro clases, hicimos excusiones a diferentes centros de salud y a otras partes del país (Mendoza y Tucumán). Porque el programa fue enfocado en el sistema de salud de Argentina, las excursiones nos ayudaron mucho para ver cómo podemos aplicar lo que aprendimos en clase a la realidad. Tuvimos la oportunidad de visitar centros de los tres niveles de atención y de los tres sectores del sistema de salud. El último mes fue dedicado a una investigación sobre un tema que escogimos. Yo investigué el uso y acceso a las pruebas genéticas para la detección precoz de enfermedades congénitas en mujeres embarazadas en la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. Entrevisté a tres genetistas y dos obstetras/ginecólogas y después escribí un informe de 33 páginas en que hablo de mis objetivos, métodos y resultados de mi investigación. Buenos Aires es una ciudad muy viva con personas apasionadas y estoy muy feliz que podía experimentar todo. 

– Anna Ming Bauer

Dylan Gordon '14, Spanish major:

During the spring semester of 2013, I studied in Madrid, Spain through Syracuse University. As part of the program, all students travel on a two-week seminar before classes officially start. My seminar was called “Mare Nostrum,” and we toured several cities across Spain, learning about the country’s unique history and roots. Once we arrived in Madrid, I enrolled in five classes, all of which were taught in Spanish. My favorite class focused on contemporary Spanish cinema, but I also enjoyed learning about the “15M” movement in my Spanish pop culture class. Aside from classes, I stayed with a host family, which the program mandates. Although it might seem nerve-racking at first, there’s honestly no better way to improve verbal and listening skills than living with people who cannot speak English. But don’t worry!  The host families are incredibly patient with the students. All in all, Madrid is an awesome city. Whether you’re into the touristy areas like Sol or the more historical sections such as Anton Martín, there is always something to do or see. As a sports fanatic, I attended several Atlético games. Spanish football is amazing, and I highly recommend going to at least one game. Overall, the people are kind and accepting. Unlike New York, they actually hold the door open for you! Lastly, I would suggest exploring every bit of the city. It’s easy to get content with some of the more popular venues, but there are neat attractions everywhere. So if you plan on studying in Madrid, get accustomed to the phrase “Vale,” prepare for the occasional discussion about the current economic and political crisis, and cheer for Atlético!

Dana Sleeper '15, Spanish major:

During the summer of 2013, I studied abroad in Argentina for six weeks with IFSA-Butler: Summer Language and Culture at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. I stayed with a host mom in the city and took a class on Argentine culture and another one on Argentine History. In addition to the classes, the program organized various dinners, tango lessons, and trips to local sporting events so that we could fully experience the Argentine lifestyle. The program also took us across the Río de la Plata to spend a weekend in Uruguay! Since the classes at the university met Tuesdays through Fridays, I planned several long-weekend trips with my friends so we could explore other unique areas of Argentina. Our first trip was to Mendoza where we toured vineyards and the gorgeous Andes Mountains. Next we went to Iguazú Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil to see the breathtaking waterfalls. During the last week, we spent some time in Salta, a province in northern Argentina, where we experienced a dry, desert-like region of the Andes Mountains with indigenous lamas, donkeys, and gauchos. While we were there we also got to see "Las Salinas Grandes", huge salt flats in the middle of the mountains at an impressive altitude. The summer program was a wonderful opportunity to learn and travel without having to miss out on anything that F&M offers during a regular semester!

Willem Kiefer '14, Spanish major:

Choosing to spend a college semester studying abroad in Arica, Chile has certainly been one of the most intelligent life decisions that I have ever made. Not only did my Spanish language skills exceed any level that I had imagined possible, but living in Chile afforded me the opportunity to grow as an international citizen. Living in a foreign country, with a foreign culture, foreign food, and a language that was not my native language, taught me how to respect a lifestyle completely different from that which I had grown up with, and how to enjoy a way of life that was completely new to me. Forming strong bonds of friendship and connecting with Chileans while speaking a second language was certainly the most rewarding aspect of the entire trip. I returned to the United States with a new-found confidence that I can reach across language borders to connect with people all across Latin America, and that if given the opportunity, I can contribute to the lives of my family and friends who live in Latin America. If living in Chile has taught me one thing, it’s that my life will always be richer for the time that I have spent abroad.

Kate Ziegelstein '14, Spanish major:

In the fall of 2012, I spent four months studying abroad in Madrid, Spain with IES: Language and Area Studies. Through this program, I had the opportunity to take Spanish courses in a variety of disciplines including Spanish history and politics, international business, and Spanish literature and film. In addition to my classroom experience, I participated in two extracurricular programs: one where I was matched with a Spanish university student to practice our Spanish and English speaking skills, and another where I volunteered teaching English in a kindergarten and first grade classroom. I was also able to live with a host mother, or "señora," which allowed me to develop a new level of comfort with the Spanish language skills I have been cultivating here at F&M. During the semester, I traveled to many other cities throughout Spain, developing a love for the unique culture of each place and finding out how diverse Spain really is. Even considering all my travels, Madrid really became my home. In just four months, I felt that I became a Madrileña and developed a global perspective that has stayed with me upon my return to the U.S.