Hello, there, Dear Reader. It’s late afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Thursday, November 19, 2020. Currently, the temperature here is 73˚F (23˚C) under partly skies. With the wind blowing at 12 MPH (19 KM/H) from the east-northeast and humidity at 65%, the feels-like temperature is 73˚F (23˚C). The forecast for tonight calls for partly cloudy skies and a low of 63˚F (17˚C).
It’s hard to believe that we are only one week away from Thanksgiving 2020; clearly, this holiday season is a strange and somber one due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and a certain petulant man-child masquerading as the President of the United States’ wild ravings that he – despite all evidence to the contrary – won the Presidential election 17 days ago instead of his opponent, President-elect Joe Biden.
As of today, Donald J. Trump continues to tweet insane comments such as “Look at this in Wisconsin! A day AFTER the election, Biden receives a dump of 143,379 votes at 3:42AM, when they learned he was losing badly. This is unbelievable!” and “The Great State of Michigan, with votes being far greater than the number of people who voted, cannot certify the election. The Democrats cheated big time, and got caught. A Republican WIN!” Unwilling to concede the election, Trump veers between bragging about non-existent victories on the “vote fraud” front and retweeting the praises of his supporters, such as the comments from California Congressman Darrell Issa in an article published on the Fox News website recently:
“I believe that Donald Trump has added to the Republican Party just as Lincoln did and Reagan did and Goldwater did,” Darrell Issa said on “Fox News Saturday.” “These are lasting people still mark each of those historical figures in a very special way. And so I think when you take the party of Reagan, and then you add Lincoln, then you add Trump you get our party.”
Not only do we have political shenanigans to worry about, but we also still have the COVID-19 pandemic still not anywhere under control. As of 5:25 PM Eastern, this is where we are on November 19, 2020:
Global Cases: 56,724,621
Global Deaths: 1,356,952
US Cases: 11,674,074
U.S. Deaths: 251,970
Things are so dire that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging Americans not to travel over the Thanksgiving holidays.
It’s just so freakin’ unbelievable.
On a personal note, I find it hard to believe that this will be the sixth Thanksgiving that I spend without either my late mother or my estranged half-sister. I still mourn for my mom, who deserved a less painful and stressful end than the one she ended up getting. As for my half-sister Victoria…well, now that her cousin Juan Manuel Pereira is dead she has one less person to lean on, so I don’t think her Thanksgiving is going to be a happy one.
And, as the years go by and my Semester in Spain study abroad stint in the fall of 1988 feels more and more like either a dream or something that happened to someone else instead of me, I find it hard to believe that 32 years ago I wrote four columns for my college’s student newspaper in my apartment in Sevilla (Seville), Spain and sent them back to Miami for publication.
Alas, only one reached the States and made its way to Miami-Dade Community College – South Campus (now Kendall Campus) and its office of Student Publications in time to be published while I was still in Spain. (The other three arrived in Miami after I did and were published during the Winter Term.)
This is it:
Study abroad is more than educational: it’s an experience
(Originally published in the December 1, 1988 issue of Catalyst)
SEVILLE, Spain (CCIS Program)
Over the past six weeks of my stay here in Seville as a participant in the College Consortium for International Studies’ Semester in Spain program, I have come to understand how challenging studying abroad really is. Several other students from this campus are also taking part in this program.
In many respects, studying abroad is no different from studying at our home college or university. We have our schedule set up much like we do in the U.S. with lectures and reading assignments.
We have midterms and finals, of course, although in some classes final exams are given at the director’s discretion. Unlike studying in the U.S., we’re learning about a different country’s history, culture, government and economic system, not by reading about these in a textbook, but by living in it.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” said sophomore Wendy Page, who will be graduating from South Campus in the Winter Term. “I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish and to be more knowledgeable about life in other countries. This program has really been a great step in that direction.”
I, too, have also wanted to come to Spain to experience European culture and history first-hand, having been inspired by all those humanities and history courses I have taken at Miami-Dade.
In addition to the thrill of reporting from abroad, I’ve found what I came looking for, and perhaps more. As I mentioned earlier, studying abroad is challenging in every sense of the word.
I am not just talking about the academic program here, although I have found it to be one of the most difficult yet satisfying ones in my college experience.
There is a great deal more involved here, classes, tests, and term papers aside.
In addition to the basic problems of living in a country with a different language, history, culture and political system, a student abroad can expect to face the following challenges:
Homesickness. This can be overcome with a positive outlook and support from fellow students and the home front. There have been days when most of us here have felt depressed, when we have mailed post cards and letters to everyone we know and no one except parents have bothered to write back.
Culture shock. Believe me, when you first travel to a foreign country, you will be hit by the oh-my-God-how-weird-this-place-is syndrome. I still get impatient with the “let’s close everything down between 2 and 5 p.m. and go home for lunch” system.
Meeting new people. A very universal challenge anywhere, but if you’re going to study-travel abroad, you must make friends both with your fellow students and the natives you come in contact with. One of the nice things about the program is that I’ve met students not only from my home campus but also from colleges and universities from all over the U.S.
Anti-Americanism. Whenever a major power like the U.S. gets to be a country with wealth and influence and the military muscle to back it, all the other nations tend to get resentful.
Thankfully, all of these things can be overcome with a little patience and a lot of determination.
Another thing that I’ve learned about the program is how to rely upon myself. Basically, I’m responsible for everything; I have to pay for my rent, my books and school supplies, monitor my own progress and so on.
It takes a lot of self-discipline to keep yourself from turning a study-abroad experience into a mere tourist excursion. It isn’t really that hard, it just takes a little readjustment of your priorities.
“I’d recommend the program to anyone who really wants to learn Spanish and get acquainted with Spain itself,” said Greg Norell, a student from Texas. “I think it’s the best way to get a feeling for the language and culture.”
The way the program itself is set up is really the key to a student’s enjoyment of the Seville experience. The mixture of academics and extracurricular activities makes studying abroad challenging yet fun, too.
© 1988, 2020 Alex Diaz-Granados. All Rights Reserved