Memory Lane: Off to Spain in ’88

Image by María Fernanda Pérez from Pixabay

In the fall of 1988, I participated in the College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS) Semester in Spain Program, in which I joined a group of 42 students from various colleges and universities from across the U.S. in a 12-week-long “accelerated semester” in Sevilla (Seville), Spain. From September 21 to mid-December of 1988, the members of this CCIS-Seville group studied the language, history, civics, and culture of Spain both at the old CCIS Center in Calle Adolfo Rodriguez Jurado, 16 and at the main campus of the Universidad de Sevilla.

During our 12-week stay in Andalucia, Spain, we not only did classroom work, but we also went on several out-of-town trips. Most were “day-trips” to places that were relatively near Sevilla, including:

  • Ciudad Italica (Roman ruins)
  • Jerez de la Frontera/Arcos de la Frontera/Monasterio de La Rabida/Playa Mazagon
  • Cordoba (where we visited the Cathedral)
  • Granada (the only overnight trip we took, and the one occasion where I got drunk!)
La Torre del Oro (Gold Tower). I used to walk by this landmark on the Guadalquivir River on my way to the old CCIS Center from my residencia in Los Remedios. Image by JAIME PF from Pixabay 

Although I can’t say that my 88-day study-abroad stint was idyllic in any sense of the word, it was one of the most exciting and challenging experiences I ever had. Not just in the context of my college years, but also in that of my early adulthood. It was my first taste of what life away from my home and my widowed mother could have been like, plus it was my (thus far, at least) my only European travel experience.

As to why I went…..

Well, there were quite a few reasons, actually. Certainly the allure of going overseas while I was still young was the main draw, and I had a romantic notion in my head that not only would I go back to Miami with academic laurels in the shape of good grades on my report card, but that I’d earn some “cred” as a student journalist if I sent regular columns back to the staff of my college campus’ student newspaper about my experiences in the CCIS Program in Sevilla.

Catalyst staffers Robert Tamayo (left), Jennie Ahrens (on chair, at right), and me in the newspaper production room at Miami-Dade Community College, South (now Kendall) Campus in 1987. This was taken the year before I went to Seville. (Photo Credit: Jim Linn)

Perhaps the best way to show you how I felt back then about going to Seville is by sharing the column that I wrote on September 15, 1988 for the issue of Catalyst that would be published one day after my arrival in Seville.

Columnist treks to Europe to be correspondent

(Alex Diaz-Granados, Catalyst’s first foreign correspondent, will be reporting from Spain this term.)

Spain: the final frontier.

It is still hard for me to believe that, as I write this, only six days remain until I board an Iberia Airlines 747 and fly off to Spain (as in Spain, Europe) for a whole semester.

Not that I’m not prepared. Last week I bought a vast quantity of traveler’s cheques (Yes, they’re American Express…those Karl Malden commercials do wonders for my nerves.), my passport is in order and I have most of what I need for an extended stay,

Clothes? Yes, indeed. I haven’t done this much shopping for clothes since my senior year of high school. At least 10 per cent of the men’s department of Sears is in my two suitcases.

Illustration by Rogers Perez.

Not only that, but some of my close friends have given me some badly-needed winter clothing, especially sweaters and a nice warm pair of gloves, If anyone wanted to guess where I am going by looking at all the sweaters they’d think I’m going to Norway. (I’m not, but it does get cold in Spain in the winter.)

My other supplies include a typewriter, writing paper, a large bottle of Bayer aspirin, batteries (for the typewriter and my Walkman), a transformer (the electricity is a wee bit different there), my shaving kit and other toiletries.

This is, after all, a trip to Europe we’re talking about here – possibly the greatest adventure of my life.

(“To boldly go where I haven’t gone before….”)

In my original draft of the column, I wrote a paragraph that was a sort of “mission statement” which encapsulated my reasons for going to Seville as part of the CCIS Semester in Spain program. I knew that it was important to highlight that aspect of my signing up for the study-abroad program, so I wrote a short but informative graf reminding readers that I wasn’t going to Spain merely as a tourist, but to study the language, culture, and history of that country.

As it turns out, my friend Rogers Perez was our graphics editor that semester, and he drew a caricature of me carrying two overstuffed suitcases and armed with “anti-terrorist mace.” I don’t remember if I saw the illustration when it was originally created, but I do know that the placement of the graphic on the Opinions page in the next issue unwittingly got me in hot water with the Foreign Language Department chair.

I don’t know if you know anything about newspaper production and editing methods, especially when it comes to old school print media, but back then, the campus paper was a tabloid-sized publication. This means that each page measures 432 x 279 mm or 17 x 11 inches, so editors have to make decisions on how to place stories and graphics for maximum effect, both in content and in design.

Obviously, when you are a section editor and you only have so many column-inches to devote to one story, whenever you add graphics to the mix you have to decide where to place the photo or illustration, and whether or not you have to edit “copy” to fill the space in the page without messing up the other writers’ articles in the process.

I wasn’t there when the Opinions editor made the decision to publish Rogers’ graphic, nor was I present to help choose the graf which should be cut. I was busy with last-minute preparations for my flight to Spain and in no position – official or unofficial – to protest the placement of the graphic in my article.

Unfortunately, the Opinions editor (I don’t remember who it was at the time, since my assignment was overseas.) decided to snip my section about the raisson d’etre for my trip, and when the Foreign Language Department head, Dr. Robert Vitale, read the article, he was not happy.

That, however, is a tale that I will tell another time.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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