University of Iowa

Reflections on Race and Ethnicity Abroad: Spain

April 17th, 2018

I identify as an Asian American, specifically of East Indian descent, and I have felt that too much of my focus was on the academic side of college. Most of the Indians I know participated in few to no activities outside of the classroom because we have been raised in a culture that stresses the importance of academics far more than our non-academic interests. Many of my family members and friends of Indian descent love to tell me about their time in college but when I ask them what clubs or events they participated in I too often get blank stares.

Our culture has put so much stress on the academic part of college that we often forget about the other things college has to offer, such as clubs and interest groups. That is why it was my goal to study abroad and to learn another language, being the first person in my family to do so. Spanish has nothing to do with my major, no tangible value in getting me towards my degree, but learning Spanish and studying abroad has helped me grow into a better person. Studying abroad strengthened my willingness to branch out into the unknown, bolstering my curiosity of the vastness of our world, and gave me an appreciation of a totally different culture. My worldview had been limited to the Midwestern United States, and now I am able to understand my place in the world better, having traveled across the globe, lived with a Spanish family, and by being lucky enough to be an ambassador for diversity both in the US and abroad.

While attending the University of Alicante, my professor, Ines, understood that a major goal of ours studying abroad was to experience the culture as much as we wanted to learn another language. Given that the class was less than three weeks, Ines knew she was limited in what she could teach us in the classroom. However, she was excellent at giving us work for outside of class that challenged us to experience Alicante in different ways.

A part of Spanish culture is to go to small coffee shops located next to plazas, or city squares, around ten or eleven in the morning to enjoy a small meal, called tapas, to give yourself a break and relax. Ines gave us an assignment one day to go to one of these cafes, order in Spanish, observe the other people also at the cafe, and relax. Given that the majority of my classes and homework are strictly analytical, this gave me a whole new perspective on how a class can be taught. Despite the assignment not having a substantive goal, it pushed everyone in our class towards our objective of really experiencing the Spanish culture while also deepening our knowledge of the Spanish language.

So, to all the students who have come to college with the idea that you should stick to things in your ballpark of study, I say push yourself to experience something like you have never experienced before. Use your electives to explore an area you have never thought of exploring. Join a club that sounds interesting. And maybe even study abroad! I sure am glad I did.

Sincerely,

Kallin Khan ‘18

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