A major difference between Spain and the U.S. (outside of the language, of course) is the structure of meals here. Breakfast is usually very light- fruit, yogurt, toast, and tea or coffee. Lunch isn’t usually eaten until around 2 and it is a much heavier meal, similar to what we would do in the U.S. for dinner. People often return home for lunch from school or work to eat with their families. Around this time you’ll see lots of people walking the streets, but right after, there will be no one out for several hours. While in the U.S. dinner is the most important meal eaten with family, in Spain, it’s lunch. My host mom typically cooks lunch for my roommate and I. So far, we’ve had chorizo with lentils, pasta with salmon, a roast with pork, potatoes, and other vegetables, bocadillo, and paella. After lunch, my host mom has given us a variety of desserts to try as well. One of my favorites that I’d never heard of or seen before was mandarin orange slices with honey and cinnamon.
Dinner is eaten around 8:30 and is generally lighter than what we have in the U.S as well. In Spanish culture, it’s not traditional to host people inside your house, like it is in the U.S. Typically, people meet out on the streets to talk and hang out or go out to restaurants or cafes. A common thing to do for dinner is to go and get tapas with friends. Tapas are small bites that come in a variety of forms. Some of my favorites have been “tostada con carne,” or bread with meat, “croquetas,” little fried balls of meat, cheese, and a mashed potato type of mixture, and “patatas bravas,” fried potato slices with a sauce on top. With these tapas, you can get a drink, like a beer or glass of wine for around 3 euros. Getting tapas for dinner has been one of my favorite things- it’s such a great way to meet other people in my program, explore the city, practice the language, and immerse ourselves into the culture.
It’s only been a few days in Granada and I’ve already been having an amazing time. While waiting in the airport for one of my flights, I met a girl who was from the same program as me, which helped ease a lot of my stress about arriving in a new country, in an airport I’d never been in before. Navigating the airport in Madrid proved a bit difficult, so I was especially grateful to have her there to go through it with me. In line to go through Customs, we ran into two other girls- one from our program and one from another. The four of us were able to hang out and get to know each other before our next flight, making the transition into a new country a lot smoother. While waiting at our gate to board, more than ten other IES students showed up. It was great to finally meet other students face to face and get to know some of the people I’d be spending the next few months with. It was also nice to hear that we shared a lot of the same fears and reservations about adjusting to the language and our new environment. Upon arriving in Granada, I took a taxi to my homestay, which is located on a gorgeous street near the center of the city. I even have a little balcony in my room that overlooks the street.
Shortly after arriving, my homestay “mom” and several IES “orientadores,” students from University of Granada working with IES to help welcome and immerse us into the city, organized a little visit for other nearby homestay students and I to a local cafe. The orientadores took us on a walk nearby and we met up with other students staying in one of the residence halls. It was so fun finally getting to hang out with fellow students in Granada and explore the city together. It also helped me manage the jet-lag that I had been fighting since landing. Although it’s only been a short amount of time, my transition into this city and this culture has been made easy by the support of IES and the orientadores, my homestay “mom,” and all of the fellow students.
Before we get started, I wanted to introduce myself real quick! My name is Mariella Stine and I am a sophomore. I am from Atlanta, GA and I am double majoring in Spanish and Studio Art, with a minor in Creative Writing. This semester, I will be studying abroad in Granada, Spain from January through May through IES.
If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’ve always loved to travel. There’s just something so special about going somewhere you’ve never been, seeing things you’ve never seen, and experiencing an entirely different culture than your own. That being said, I’ve never traveled alone before. I’ve always had my family to fall back on when things get difficult or problems arise that I don’t necessarily see a clear solution to. Then, add in another language entirely and things get just a little bit more complicated. While I have been studying Spanish since sixth grade, going to Spain, where I know I will be fully surrounded by the language, unable to fall back on my English, is definitely nerve-wracking, especially when I am participating in a program where I know no one. But ultimately, one of the reasons why I am able to be here, sitting in the airport waiting for my first of many flights, is because of the support I’ve had along the way from both the staff at IES Granada and Wofford’s International Programs Office. Being able to ask all of my questions and schedule as many appointments as I needed to answer those questions and work through any concerns was extremely helpful and reduced my stress greatly throughout the whole process. Resources like Orientation with IES and the Study Abroad Alumni Dinner put me in direct contact with students who have participated in the same program as me. Hearing all about their incredible experiences while abroad made me feel more excited than anything. Even hearing about the not-so-incredible experiences was reassuring, knowing that I would be able to get through those if they arise because someone else before me has too.
It’s all of these experiences that I will inevitably have that I am most looking forward to while abroad. I want to grow as a person and push myself outside of my comfort zone. I want to be more independent and confident. And of course, I want to make the most of each and every opportunity I have. Wish me luck!
During this block I have had the opportunity to pursue an internship while studying in Rome. For the past 4 weeks I have been working alongside of Dr. Mattia Della Rocca who is a professor of communications at University of Rome Tor Vergata. The project that we are working on is focused on the environmental humanities and aims to develop a conference in which promotes the study of such subjects. Furthermore, I have also been working with a graduate student named Illaria on this project. She is studying the psychology of digital environments and how those environments can be utilized to educate people around the world about climate change. My job is to contribute information about the environmental humanities field in the United States and also contribute knowledge surrounding ecocriticism and environmental writing.
Currently my main focus is developing content that promotes these ideas through an instagram profile (@environmentalhumanities.tv) which will later also serve the purpose of promoting the conference planned. I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to develop creative ways to share information that I am passionate about and look forward to the remaining weeks of content that I will publish.
In addition to learning so much from Mattia and Illaria I have learned a lot about Italian working culture and how it differs from American working culture. The first big difference that I have noticed is the interpersonal relationships expected between boss and employee and between employee and employee. The promotion of these relationship can look a lot of different ways but in my experience it has been getting a coffee after our work is done, getting gelato, taking public transportation together, and accompanying my boss to events that he has coordinated in order to network. The working culture here is also much more flexible than in America and Italians very much value work and life balance. It isn’t unordinary to have to wait several days to hear from someone and it is not expected of you to put your work before all else like I have experienced in some instances in the American working culture.
Due to the nature of my internship being based in academia I have also had the opportunity to observed Italian university culture which is also very different. During my second week I was able to visit the University Tor Vergata and attend a digital environments class taught by Mattia. Upon speaking to some of the students I was shocked to hear that they all had different concentrations, or what we would call majors. In Italy it is expected that students take an interdisciplinary approach to their studies. Additionally it is never required for students in Italy to attend class. As long as you pass the course you get the credit regardless of your in class participation which is very different than America.
Overall I think that this internship program has been easy to balance as I travel and do my own personal extracurriculars and I have enjoyed working on our project. Mattia has been super supportive of my ideas and I truly believe that this will offer me benefits in the future. I am very glad I took the professional leap instead of taking a second course here in Rome.
As a Black woman, there are many things that the world tells me that I cannot do. The pressures of stereotypes, racism, and misogynoir place an invisible weight upon Black women that we must lift in order to live fulfilling lives. Many African Americans have been manipulated into fearing international travel. There is a somewhat ingrained mentality that if you think racism in America is bad, just imagine how “they” will treat you “over there”. I am fully aware that anti black racism has no geographical bounds however, I refuse to uphold this toxic narrative. International travel can be an incredible opportunity for self discovery and interacting with different perspectives. This narrative fearmongers African Americans into closing themselves off from travel instead of holding different cultures accountable for contributing to antiblack racism.
My experience in Toulouse has really changed my perception of blackness overall. My host mother, Carole, is of Angolan descent and she has lived in many different places across Europe including Russia, Portugal, Paris, France and now here in Toulouse. One of the first questions she asked me was what my *real* ethnicity and nationality is. This question is not unfamiliar in Toulouse, as there is a very large and diverse population of African immigrants and other members of the diaspora. However, for African Americans this question cuts like a knife. This was my first time being asked this question and when I responded saying that I didn’t know she looked very confused. Here in France, I have found that many African immigrants and Afro-French people face strong social pressure. Anti immigration and xenophobic rhetoric in French politics over the years has pressured many to assimilate the best they can into white French culture however, they still have a strong pride in their home countries’ culture and continue to support their communities. Due to my own personal experiences and America’s history, it is difficult to come to terms with an American identity, especially while in France. In the US it’s normal to identify as “just black” however, it feels like it’s not enough here. Black culture in the US is so diverse and vast but there is still a sense of cultural unity despite this. From my conversations here, blackness is interpreted more with a person’s distinct culture or nationality.
Being a black woman abroad has sparked a more philosophical debate as to what blackness means to me as well as opened my eyes to the different ways African Americans are perceived. Overall, I am grateful for my experiences here and I am proud of the growth that this journey has brought me.
I am in Rome!! Two weeks ago I flew out of South Africa and touched down in Italy. Studying in two locations presents such an amazing opportunity to grow in different ways but it has been a challenge to adjust to a new culture after finally settling into another one.
View From My Room in Rome
One major struggle that I have had in the past couple of weeks is the language barrier I experience in Italy. In Cape Town everyone I met spoke English at a level where I could have a conversation with them. The signs were in English and I did not have to be conscious of how I am speaking to people. In Italy everything is in Italian (duh) and everyone speaks Italian as their first language. This makes little things like going to the grocery store, trying to get around the city, and ordering things at a restaurant more difficult.
In addition to cultural changes I also have experienced a shift in CIEE culture. While policies are the same Rome’s CIEE program is much more popular, therefore much larger. I have not even met half the people who are sharing this experience with me, this makes it feel less intimate and more like an individual experience. The Rome staff expects a lot more independence from us. We live about 40 minutes (walking) away from campus and live separately from other CIEE students. Excursions are facilitated by the staff but there is no group transportation, provided lunches, etc. In this sense the CIEE group here feels less like a family than CIEE Cape Town did and has taken some getting used to.
A personal challenge I have been having is adjusting to city life. I am not a city person and although Cape Town could be qualified as a big city there is nature surrounding it to enjoy when you need an escape and it is very accessible. Rome is big in a different way and beautiful in a different way. You can get lost walking the streets and pass ancient buildings and inspiring cathedrals but there isn’t much nature in and surrounding these streets to retreat to when I feel like releasing some stress. I feel myself having to sightly adjust how I react to stress and what I seek when stressed because I can’t find it here.
From the Best Garden/Green Space in Rome- Villa Borghese
Street Where CIEE is Located
Even with these challenges in mind my experience in Rome has been lovely so far. The food is fantastic and my roommates Sienna, Chloe, and Haley, are awesome. We have had a great time navigating this adjustment together and I look forward to experiencing Rome further!
Favorite Meal so far! A Nice Big Bowl of Carbonara