Memory Lane: Thanksgiving 1988 & Semester’s End

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Hi, Dear Reader. It’s Wednesday, November 25, 2020, and it is early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida. Currently, the temperature is 80˚F (27˚C) under mostly sunny skies. With humidity at 62% and the wind blowing from the southeast at 15 MPH (23 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 82˚F (28˚C). The forecast high for today is 81˚F (27˚C) and we can expect partly sunny skies for the rest of the afternoon. Tonight, the forecast calls for clear skies and a low of 64˚F (18˚C).

It’s hard to believe that 32 years ago I was living and studying in Sevilla (Seville), Spain as a participant in the College Consortium for International Studies’ (CCIS) Semester in Spain program. I was 25 and majoring in journalism/mass communications at Miami-Dade Community College (one of the main schools that made up the consortium, along with Broward Community College), and I decided to complete my foreign language requirement by taking 15 credits’ worth of classes during a 12-week study-abroad stint.

This was a photo taken in Room 8215 at Miami-Dade Community College – South Campus Student Publications Department, on the “production” side where most of the work went on during the making of an issue. This must have been snapped sometime in 1987; at left, graphics editor Robert Tamayo clowns around as Jennie Ahrens (seated) acts bemused. I am the chap in the center. I was 24 then! (Photo by Jim Linn)

Now, for most college students this would have sufficed, but I also volunteered to write articles about my experiences – and those of the other 41 participants in the Fall ’88 CCIS Semester in Spain – for my campus’ student newspaper, Catalyst. Being young, naïve, and totally clueless about the details of how I would write, edit, and send columns from Sevilla back to Miami in time to meet deadlines without the infrastructure that professional journalists had in 1988 – such as direct wire service from Spain to Miami or fast transatlantic mail service – I figured my voluntary assignment to serve as Catalyst’s first foreign correspondent would be a piece of cake.

A view of La Giralda from the bridge (which I call the “Naboo Bridge”) at the Plaza de Espana in Sevilla. Photo Credit: Pixabay

As it turns out, things did not go as well as I had planned. I spent much of my time either in classrooms at our two locations (the “old” CCIS Center in Adolfo Rodriguez Jurado Street not too far away from the Cathedral of Seville – home of La Giralda and Christopher Columbus’ tomb – and the main campus of the University of Seville, listening to lectures and discussing readings from the books we were assigned to read, especially for the Government of Spain class that I chose for the social studies part of my course load.

And when we weren’t doing the in-class stuff, the CCIS staff took us on field trips in and around Sevilla. As I recall, we went to:

  • Ciudad Italica (Roman ruins)
  • The Cathedral and La Giralda
  • The Hospital de la Caridad to see the art of Valdes Leal
  • Jerez de la Frontera/Arcos de la Frontera/Monasterio de La Rabida/Playa Mazagon
  • Cordoba (where we visited the Cathedral)
  • Granada

Because of my innate shyness, I was never enthusiastic about conducting interviews; most of the articles I wrote for the student newspapers at South Miami High and Miami-Dade Community College (now just Miami-Dade College, as the school added several four-year degree programs around 10 years ago and is no longer technically “just” a two-year junior college) were either entertainment-related reviews or op-ed pieces, although I did write for every section of Catalyst before I dropped out of college in 1989. 

I also sucked at time management, so even though I had the best of intentions when I told my journalism prof that I wanted to report from Spain while I was there, I didn’t send my first pieces back to Miami till early October, and I wrote my best pieces shortly after Thanksgiving of 1988. As a result, of the four good articles I wrote while I was still in Seville, only one made it to publication while I was overseas – in the December 1, 1988 issue of Catalyst.

The rest? Well, I sent them all in one envelope shortly after Thanksgiving – which, being a U.S. holiday only, didn’t muck around with the Spanish postal service. However, it usually took a week for mail from Seville to reach Miami, and for some reason that particular envelope – with three columns, to boot – got stuck in the Christmas holiday backlog for so long that it did not reach M-DCC South Campus (now Kendall) till January of 1989. (I ought to know, because I was the staffer who went to the campus mailroom and found it there!)

I have, in this blog, already reproduced two of the written-in-Seville pieces from the fall of 1988. Here is the last one:

We’re not quite ready to go home yet

Written in November 1988, published March 2, 1989)

Alex Diaz-Granados

SEVILLE, Spain (CCIS Program)
The winter holiday season has arrived and here in Seville the 42 students participating in the CCIS Semester in Spain program are looking beyond the upcoming final exams and planning their return home or further European travel.

Already, they have celebrated Thanksgiving, traditionally a very homey holiday, truly away from home as they are 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

Most of the group celebrated a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, prepared by Italian chefs at the three-star restaurant Carlino. The meal, judging by the students’ comments, was psychologically, if not gastronomically, successful.

“The group really came together,” said Sandra Langlois, a freshman from Miami-Dade’s South Campus. “It was really special for me because I am French, and it was my first American Thanksgiving. I really got the true feeling of the tradition of the holiday — togetherness.”

Now, a few weeks later, students’ thoughts are geared to either further travel throughout the holiday or their homecoming.

Melissa Miller, a senior from Lake Forest College in Chicago, said, “I’ll be spending the holidays in Vienna, Austria, so I’ll be sure to have a white Christmas, and I won’t be alone because I’m traveling with a bunch of friends.”

However, the majority of the participants in the program are ready to go home — some more than others.

“I’m ready to go home,” said Bob Holzweiss, a junior from St. Bonaventure College in New York State. “I’ve been here 12 weeks, and that’s enough.”

“I miss the luxuries of home — convenience stores and fast food joints — and also my car, my family and friends,” said Ingrid Gottlieb, a student from Broward Community College. “And I miss my boyfriend.”

Others, such as Wendy Page, a sophomore from South Campus, decided to stay for the Spring Term.

“Three months is just not enough time for me to get a full taste of the culture and lifestyle that Seville has to offer,” she said.

And although he’s leaving at the end of the semester, Fairfield University’s Mike Boucher agreed.

“A lot of good things have happened here in terms of self-discovery, friendship, independence, and sense of perspective, and I don’t think I’m ready to go home.”

Also contributing to this column is Michelle Kirby, foreign correspondent for Beacon, North Adams State College, Mass. and Mainsheet, Cape Cod CC’s student newspaper.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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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