Friday, September 4, 2009

Why learn Spanish?

I believe learning languages is EXTREMELY important because it is an instant common ground between two people. For example, if I were riding the metro into Washington D.C. and I happened to be sitting next to a Colombian woman and her daughter who had just moved to the U.S. a month ago. Their English is virtually nonexistent. If I could share the Spanish language with her and her daughter, instantly they would feel more comfortable and we would automatically share something in common. I believe that language is the single most beneficial way to connect with other people. Language is the very basis of communication and in order to be successful in life, having strong communication skills is a prerequisite.


Globalization is a very tough subject. Like most issues in the world, there is no "right answer". Many people worldwide correctly argue that globalization is "a force for environmental devastation, exploitation of the developing world, and suppressing of human rights". However, it is also true that globalization is a means of economic growth that can help bring more prosperity to the developing nations of the world. In my own personal opinion, I don't know which argument is closer to the truth. I think that the world needs people arguing both points because that keeps everything in moderation. I think capitalism and free markets and economic growth are extremely important components of society. However, I also believe that everything has re-precautions and that it is not okay to step over everyone and everything that stands in the way of becoming more prosperous. It really is a tough situation and I don't think there is a "right answer" because no matter what, someone is getting screwed. I believe that the "best answer" is the one where the most amount of people are gaining and as few as possible are losing.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Spanish Etiquette

- kiss left cheek first, then right
- men shake hands, pat backs, or embrace
- personal bubble much smaller

Dining Etiquette:
- remain standing until told to sit
- always keep your hands visible when eating
- do not begin eating until the hostess does
- use utensils



Capital- Madrid

Size in sq. km/sq. miles- 505,370 sq km
Neighboring countries- France, Portugal, Andorra
mild; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast
Natural disasters-
earthquakes and hurricanes in the Canaries
Natural Resources-
coal, lignite, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, uranium, mercury

Social Dimensions:

40,525,002 people
Life expectancy - 80 years
Ethnic groups-
composite of Mediterranean and Nordic types

Religious groups and percentages-
Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
Languages spoken in order of prevalence- Castilian Spanish (official) 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%
Literacy rate (% over age 15 who can read and write)- 97.9%
Average income-
$18,670/ year

Political Snapshot:

Independence/National Day - October 12 (Columbus in America)
Key events in political history and years they occurred- 1479: Isabella and Ferdinand
Leader/president -
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
Political parties-
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, Communist Party of Spain, Popular Alliance, Democratic and Social Center
Current political situation- prime minister is the head of the government, 17 autonomous regions
Political system-
parliamentary monarchy

Economic Snapshot:

GDP (gross domestic product): agriculture 3.4%, industry: 29%, services 67.6%
Unemployment rate: 13.9%
Percentage living below poverty line: 19.8%
Main industries:
textiles and apparel (including footwear), food and beverages, metals and metal manufactures, chemicals, shipbuilding, automobiles, machine tools, tourism, clay and refractory products, footwear, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment
Main imports:
machinery and equipment, fuels, chemicals, semifinished goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, measuring and medical control instruments, oil, natural gas
Main exports:
machinery, motor vehicles; foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, medicines, other consumer goods
Exchange rate: 1($) : 1.4 (Euro)

Entertainment Snapshot:

Country's favorite sport: Futbol
Other sports played: Cycling, Golf, Tennis
Traditional forms of music: Flamenco
Favorite foods: Tapas, Seafoods, Cuisines
Other forms of entertainment: Bullfighting

Stereotypes, Gender Roles and Cultural Adaptation Strategies

Characteristics Associated with being American:

1. All Americans are loud/ talk alot
Freedom of speech (maybe?) we take it to an extreme?
2. All Americans are fat
3. All Americans are wealthy
Our economy effects the World Economy; we spend ALOT of money

4. All Americans are arrogant
"Americans don't speak English, they speak AMERICAN"
5. All Americans are ignorant and agree with Obama/Bush Administration
Decisions based on sudden impulse not intellectual thought (Iraq)
6. All Americans are materialistic
Quantity and size over quality; big, better, faster
7. All Americans believe in war
8. All Americans are sexually promiscuous
Britney Spears/ Hollywood
9. All Americans are environmentally disrespectful
Oil, etc.

Gender Roles: (observe local women)
- Always kiss left cheek first, then right
- Men shake hands with both hands, left hand on forearm
- Too much eye contact/smiling = flirting
- Longer clothing than accepted in the U.S.

Cultural Adaptation Strategies:

1.Figure out what cultural values might be involved when I encounter a conflict or something goes wrong.
2. Think about different cross-cultural perspectives to examine situations in which I seem to offend someone or do something wrong.
3.Consider ways in which different cultures might view things in different ways (e.g., how different cultures value alone time or independence).
4.Counter stereotypes others use about people from my country by using generalizations and cultural values instead.
5.Use generalizations instead of stereotypes when I make statements about people who are different from me.
6.Make distinctions between behavior that is personal (unique to the person), cultural (representative of the person's culture), and universal (a shared human concern).
7. Look at similarities as well as differences between people of different backgrounds.

My 3 Identities

Women Student Athlete Musician

Although I have grown up in a country where I legally have equal rights to men, there is definitely a certain pride that comes with being a female. Equal rights to men are a relatively new concept so in practice, their are still and probably always be some amount of discrimination. I, for example, am a minority in the sport of sailing. In the United States, there are VERY few female skippers (those who drive the boat). Being one of such a small number always has effects. People often question my legitimacy as a skipper who can hang with the boys. My point being, just like any situation where someone is a minority, I become extra proud of being a female because I have worked hard in the sport and proved many wrong. I have overcome many stereotypes that come with being a female in the sport of sailing and so I am extremely proud of my identity.

Growing up, my parents and I have always put a heavy emphasis on being well-rounded. In high school, my dad was THE jock of the school. My mom, on the other hand, graduated in the top of her class and was very brainy. For me, I like a little bit of both. I understand that good grades are extremely important if I want to be successful in the long run. However, this past year, I have been putting far too much pressure on myself academically and now understand that everything must be in moderation. So, I try to balance my schoolwork and my athletic life. I sail competitively year round and am very passionate about it. But there are definitely times where I have to remember that schoolwork is still very important.

Music is a very important part of my identity because it is something that I have always done for myself. Nobody ever forced me to practice. I took piano lessons for years but hated them. My favorite part of playing piano was just sitting down and doing improvisation. I also play the guitar and after two lessons, I decided to just teach myself instead. Along with these two, I also sing. I have my own mic, mic stand and PR system. For me, music is the one part of my life where I play what I want, when I want. There is no structure. Music is when I relax and unwind and I believe that is a very important, hidden part of who I am.

My personal identity is always changing. I always strive to be well-rounded and encompass a little bit of everything. This is important to understand as I travel abroad because although I want have as easy access to sailing and music, I need to remember that I always need to be doing a bit of everything. I need to find something that can temporarily take the space of those two activities. This is a very good realization because it will force me to be spontaneous and involved in Spanish culture. Hopefully, the Spanish people will be very open to my desires to uphold my well-rounded identity as I try new things and experience different aspects of their culture. In regards to how I think I will view them, I am trying to refrain from that. I'm trying my hardest to not judge/have expectations before I arrive. I want to be completely open to whatever the Spanish may throw in my direction and I don't want that to be hindered by any subconscious judgments that I make before I even get there.

Global Student - Day 1

As a participant of the Intrax StudyAbroad, I was one of four students selected to particpate in a pilot online course known as Global Student. Sponsored and run by Loyola Marymount University in California, the program walks me through the steps of becoming more prepared for my trip. It includes a fair amount of research and writing. Unfortunately, the blog that I WAS recording my Global Student work on, will no longer let me in, so here I am starting over again.

A. Top Ten Reasons to Study Abroad:

1. Learn a language in the country where it is spoken
The only way to become truly fluent and have command of a language is to be fully immersed in it. In a situation where you are forced to fend for yourself, learning a language becomes much easier. In an immersion experience where everyone else is speaking that language, your body will naturally reciprocate and soon your thoughts, speech and dreams will all be in that language.

2. Gain perspective on my own country and culture
I hope that traveling abroad will allow me to personally connect with a different culture. Studying abroad allows for the rare opportunity to have the perspective of being outside the fish bowl looking in as opposed to trapped inside. Hopefully, by learning a different culture and comparing it to the US, I will learn more about the United States and the perceptions it has abroad.

3. Make Connections that will last a life time
Having just come back from England and realizing the vast number of friends that I made over there, I am very optimistic about the potential networking in Spain. As someone who long term wants to work internationally, right now I am merely building my network. Already I have connections in England and now I want to expand that to Spain. I realize that many times the best opportunities come from those you know.

4. Learn about yourself and gain independence
For the past year, I have struggled when it comes to defining myself. I have not been able to decide what kind of person I want to be/ what type of person I already am. In Spain, I will be thrown into new situations daily and for the first part of the trip before I make friends, I will be alone. I want to figure who I am and this kind of situation is perfect for self discovery.

5. I've been learning history, economics, literature, and current events all from the perspective of the U.S. and I want to broaden my horizons by learning how other people look at the world.
The primary reason that things don't get done in the world is because everyone is restricted by their own bias. It is inevitable. However, traveling abroad and cultural immersion are the first steps to lessening that bias. I'm not saying that bias can be diminished, however, I do believe that bias can be altered to become more rationale by understanding others perspective.

6. Relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world rely on knowledgeable people who can speak from the perspective of having live abroad. Prejudice and ignorance are some of the biggest problems standing in the way of a better understanding between two countries people.
Like number 5, I hope to be a force that can break down this barrier by thoroughly understanding the different perspectives of the world.

7. I will create a whole social network in Spain.
It requires great communications skills to create a vast network, not to mention when the language is entirely different. Great communication skills are a must in 99% of jobs.

8. Resume builder
Today, many colleges and universities are starting to better understand the benefits of studying abroad. Many important life lessons are learned and they recognize that someone who has successfully completed a study abroad has a large amount of maturity, independence and sense of humor. Also, many companies desire people who can successfully live in a variety of countries and work with staff from different cultural backgrounds.

9. See the world
Although tourist trips are nice and pleasant, they miss so much of what makes a country so beautiful (apart from its monuments, museums and ruins). During an extended stay in Spain, I hope to delve deeper into the Spanish culture than I would if I were merely visiting. I want to become a local and become comfortable in the Spanish environment.

10. Experience hands-on learning
School Spanish is helpful however, you can only learn so much from being lecture. Being active and hands-on is the only way to truly grasp a concept. You need to figure it out for yourself, not just be told how to do.

B. What are you most looking forward to?:

1. Establishing a strong command of and comfort with the Spanish language
2. Creating a large network of friends and new family
3. Looking at the world with a different perspective
4. An opportunity to discover who I want to be
5. Living more spontaneously and relaxed - sometimes I just care about everything too much!)

C. What are you most worried about?

1. THE LANGUAGE!! - not being able to communicate what I want to say/understanding others
2. Not liking the food..
3. Unintentionally offending someone
4. Being lonely/overwhelmed
5. Not getting along with my host family

D. What are you going to miss most?

1. My family and my friends
2. Ability to play music (guitar, piano, singing)
3. American food
4. Sailing
5. People speaking English

E. What will you miss the least?

1. Self-imposed pressure regarding school, sailing, COLLEGE
2. Obsession with celebrities
3. Competition over EVERYTHING
4. How everyone (including myself) is very wound up and uptight - not spontaneous or relaxed
5. Fast food restaurants

F. The single greatest challenge for me will be:

For me, the greatest challenge will definitely be the language barrier. I am terrified that I won't know what I have to say when I need to say it, or understand what I have to when I need to. What if I completely butcher the language and nobody understands me?! Ahh!

"Be the change you want to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi

This quote not only represents my feelings about going abroad, but it is also one of my life philosophies. Although I am only sixteen, I am very cynical regarding U.S. politics. I think that we have made far too many deadly mistakes and I think that change in our foreign policy is a must. This is why I want to work for the government. I want to be the change and help initiate the change that I hope to see in the world. By traveling abroad now, I am taking the first steps into understanding specifically what kind of change the world needs. I will be gaining different perspective and understandings of what we have messed up, and what we have done right. Studying abroad for me is the first step for me to become the change that I want to make happen.


First and foremost, I hope that my three month trip to Spain will help me establish a strong command of the Spanish language. I also hope that I will create a large network of friends that I can continue to keep in touch with. In Spain, I know there will be many times where I will be thrown into uncomfortable situations. I look at these situations as a way to handle them maturely and become more comfortable with who I am and the decisions that I make. I also see Spain as a wonderful opportunity to push my limits and determine what I can and can not handle in order to learn my own strengths and weaknesses. I want to find myself and I believe that Spanish culture will definitely allow that. Apart from self discovery, I also want to gain a better understanding of the United States presence abroad as well as how we are perceived internationally. Finally, I want to broaden my horizons and learn about the world from a non-American point of view.