Finding and Maintaining Immersion

¡Hola from la beautiful ciudad of Valladolid!  These primera few semanas han been increíble. That greeting probably makes no sense to most people, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Like I tried to say, this opportunity has been an incredible adventure so far. Exploring the exciting Plaza Mayor, traveling to small country towns, attempting to learn how the rules of rugby work, and making new friends from all over the world are just a few of the amazing experiences I’ve had here in Valladolid in less than a month.

Also included in my experiences have been writing papers into the night for my online courses, talking with students and teachers at the school, and trying to stay in contact with friends and family at home as much as possible. The key difference between these two sets of experiences is the language being used, and this has been one of the difficult aspects of living in a foreign culture for me.

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An overview of Valladolid from the hills outside the city. I took this at the end of a 5.5K city walk/run charity event in support of the city’s people in need.

Immersion is the state of which I have felt when exploring the skinny streets of Leon during the evening with a group of families and friends from our neighborhood, or walking into a house in a random village to be immediately greeted and asked to sit down for food and drinks by a pack of my host father’s partying friends, or going through the process of ordering, eating, and paying  for food at a small, local cafe.

During these moments, I am overwhelmed by the sound of everyone talking in a largely unfamiliar language, participating in small cultural differences, eating new foods that I have never seen before:  I absolutely love it … until someone directs a question at me and I have to come up with a comprehensive response relatively quickly … and often times it doesn’t work out well.

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You know you are in Spain when this is your bedroom view. Throughout the week, people gather for practices or for fun. Saturdays and Sundays are days of non-stop game play, with teams ranging from kids to adults.

My abilities to listen to and speak Spanish have definitely developed during my time here, yet because of the various responsibilities that come with being an intern and a course-taking college student, this immersion often comes and goes. We only speak english in the school, I do a lot of homework in all english, I stay connected with home in English, and I give my host parents and kids english lessons to help them in school classes or certification exams.

I can sometimes feel the immersion break in these moments, but they are all aspects of an adventure such as this. I am learning that, although oftentimes a difficult task, it is imperative to find balance. Sometimes I feel lost in conversation with the host family and I want to spend every moment speaking and listening to native speakers, and sometimes I feel stressed about english priorities and feel the need to sit alone at my desk and do homework all day. The result is a big confusing mixture of spanish and english that turns my brain into a big mess like my starting sentence.

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After a long day with these neighborhood families at an environmental center where the kids learned how to fish, we spent the evening in León where we explored the streets of this former Ancient Roman city during a musical festival and toured the León Cathedral (below). My host family consists of my father, David, on the far left in the pink, my mother, Mari Cruz, on the far right next to me, and my siblings, Martín and Julia. Martín is the cool one lying down in the front with his sister Julia sitting behind him.

 

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The León Cathedral is one of Spain’s most impressive and important cathedrals. It dominates the small, winding-street city from the outside, and offers spectacular views of stained glass, among other works of art, on the inside.

I am learning the balance of offering myself time to attend to responsibilities, while still saying “si”  to every opportunity I receive to surround myself with the language and culture. In the end, it’s a difficult task that will take time to find success on both sides, but what I always try to keep in mind is that you need to relish every moment and new experience when you have an opportunity like this. All I need is dedication to both sides of the equation, and the only possible result will be a once-in-a-lifetime, incredible experience of learning and wonder.

About the author

Greg Cross

Hi! My name is Greg Cross and I'm a sophomore here at JCC. I am from Jamestown and went to JHS for high school. My major is adolescent education with a focus in history, but I also enjoy taking courses in the field of social science. On campus, I am a member of the men's golf team and the Student Ambassadors. My main interests include playing/following sports, playing video games, and reading books.