Academics, Politics, and Food

¡Hola! I realized I haven’t yet had the chance to write about academics abroad and political questions I’ve fielded from Spaniards while here. I’ll be attempting to tackle both of those topics in this post. And naturally, I’m also planning on blathering on about this week’s culinary highlight and talking a bit more about food culture here.

I think it’s important to dispel a common misconception regarding academics abroad: studying in a foreign country is not akin to a semester-long vacation, nor is it an academic cakewalk. Of course, some of my American compatriots see things a bit differently; there are always those who see their time abroad as a perfect chance to constantly get drunk and jet off to Paris, London, Ibiza, etc. every weekend. But if one is trying to be somewhat successful academically, the jet-setting, dance club-frequenting lifestyle is generally not the way to go (shocking, I know).

I will say, though, that the academic workload here is definitely less than what I’m used to at Whitman. I have 5 classes here and consistently have a bit of work for each of them. But the workload really is quite manageable, and professors here are very accessible if one is attempting to seek extra help outside of class. I also have significantly fewer hellishly long essays than I do at college, which makes for a rather lovely change.

However, there are certainly academic challenges here, including the fact that 4 of my 5 classes are in Spanish. This can make life difficult at times, especially when attempting to comprehend obscure Spanish terminology in my Islamic Art and Architecture class that I don’t even understand in English. And occasionally, one of my professors will also engage in the abhorrent practice of cold-calling students. This is always particularly special when my attention has wandered a bit, forcing me to jolt to attention when a professor looks intently in my direction and inquires if “Yack” would like to respond to their question.

Being an American in Spain also entails regularly fielding questions and comments about dear old President Trump. These are probably the situations in which I feel the language barrier most acutely. I would love to be able to have in-depth discussions regarding the US political situation with Spaniards, but unfortunately any conversations about general Trumpian wackiness require a grasp of the Spanish language and Spanish political vocabulary beyond that which I presently have. For now, I have to content myself with simply labeling him an “idiota” and noting that he’s flagrantly abusing the power of his elected office. That much, at least, I can manage.

In other news, Cedric and I enjoyed the breakfast of champions yesterday morning. Josefina treated us to churros con chocolate at a revered local establishment, Café Fútbol. Knowing that our appetites our considerable (to say the least), she generously purchased 4 orders for the 2 of us. It was not a breakfast for the faint of heart. The towering mound of churros emerged piping hot, golden, and a tiny bit greasy from the deep fryer; we seized ahold of each one with a napkin and gave them each a good dunking in our personal mug of rich, molten chocolate. Freakishly delicious.

It almost goes without saying that food is an incredibly important part of Spanish culture. Josefina is good friends with another IES host mom and, although Josefina doesn’t know the names of the IES students in the other homestay, she knows all about their eating habits, including the fact that one of the other students is a rather picky eater – he apparently doesn’t eat either seafood or salads (truly appalling). And when Josefina visited her mom the other weekend, she told us that her mom made sure to ask if we were eating well. Josefina promptly reassured her mom that we were doing quite well from a culinary standpoint; I would have to wholeheartedly agree.


Granada is gorgeous.

Sunrise hike!

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