The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on Race and Ethnicity: The Madrileño lifestyle

December 22nd, 2014
friends stand at the top of a mountain in Spain

Dear Prospective Study Abroad Student,

I spent the past summer abroad in Europe and it has been the best experience of my life thus far. I spent a month studying Spanish in Madrid and also spent some time before and after my program traveling throughout Europe. Not only did I improve my Spanish skills in and out of the classroom during my time in Spain, but I also grew a lot as a person in many ways.

One factor that influenced my time abroad is my identity. Being from a Hispanic family, I had more experience than other students being in an environment in which most people were only speaking a foreign language in which I could not fully understand or communicate. Although this environment made many other students feel out of place, I was already accustomed to this feeling. Therefore, I did not experience as much of a culture shock as I was expecting, which alleviated a lot of my stress in the beginning of my stay in Madrid. My identity also helped me look and feel like I fit in better than other Americans might have. There were numerous occasions where I had other Spaniards and foreigners approaching me to strike up conversations or ask for directions in Spanish.My Hispanic identity and background benefited me during my time abroad in numerous ways that have contributed to my positive experience.

group of girls in Spain

For the month long program, I chose to live in a homestay. I lived with an older woman who I grew very close to during the month. I am very happy with my decision to do a homestay and would highly recommend it. It is not only the best way to practice and learn Spanish, but it is also a way to completely immerse oneself in the host country culture. My host mom shared with me the best places to see and eat at, and things I must do to truly experience the Madrileño lifestyle.

I had a summer full of sangria, tapas, making new friendships, developing my Spanish skills, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. By taking a far step out of my comfort zone, I learned a lot about myself, opened my mind to new experiences, and learned to better appreciate cultural differences. Spending the summer traveling throughout Europe was the experience of a lifetime and I could not be happier or prouder of myself for achieving my dream of studying abroad.


Krystyna Nunez

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