Memory Lane: A Reporter Sums Up His Seville Experience – Part II
On September 21, 1988, when I was a 25-year-old college sophomore, I left my hometown of Miami on an Iberia 747 bound for Madrid, Spain and the first leg on a journey that took me to Sevilla (Seville), the third largest city in the country. At the time, I was one of the 42 American students who participated in the College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS) Semester in Spain Program during the fall semester of the 1988-1989.
To be accepted, you had to have a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) or better, a letter of recommendation from two professors, and you had to be enrolled in a college-level Spanish course or have already earned at least three credits’ worth of Spanish language instruction before signing up for the 12-weeks-long study-abroad program.
You also had to sign up for 15 credits’ worth of courses, including at least six credits’ worth of Spanish language instruction. The balance of your class load could include courses from the social studies/history department and/or the humanities side. (It goes without saying that you also had to have a valid passport with a visa from a Spanish consulate and the ability to either pay for classes up front or qualify for a student loan.)
Needless to say, I was accepted because at the time I was an Honors student – a feat that still amazes me, cos I was certainly not an Honors student in high school – and a relatively mature, responsible young adult. I was also a journalism major, and one of the professors who gladly filled out my recommendation form was my journalism instructor, Prof. Peter C. Townsend.
As I have remarked in earlier installments of my “Adventures in Seville” series, in addition to signing for 15 credits’ worth of academic courses (six credit hours of Advanced Spanish Language, and nine credit hours of Spanish History and Government), I volunteered to serve as my campus student newspaper’s first foreign correspondent.
To this day, I don’t remember if I had given any serious thought to how difficult that self-assigned gig would be, especially in 1988, when the Internet was still something only people in government, the financial industry, and academia knew about. Things that we in the 21st Century now take for granted – email, smartphones with digital cameras, Internet Service Providers, and Wi-Fi were still unavailable to the average person; I only had a portable battery-operated typewriter, a borrowed Canon Sure Shot, air mail paper and envelopes, and access to the Spanish postal service at my disposal. Aside from that, I only had my journalism training and my ability to write a decent, accurate story.
I didn’t stop to think about how hard it would be to balance my already-challenging academic schedule with the day-to-day realities of living independently (or nearly so) for the first time. Nor did I really factor in such variables as the effects of possible health issues, homesickness, and other challenges on my ambitious plan to be the 1988 version of Edward R. Murrow or Ernest Hemingway.
I had hoped to be able to write at least 12 columns – one per week – from Seville during my time there. I ended up writing three, in addition to the one I wrote at the student paper’s office a few days before my flight to Spain. I didn’t write more than that because:
- I had to spend far more time studying – especially for Spanish Government class – than I anticipated
- I was distracted – far too much – by a crush that I had on the Student Activities Director, who was only one year older than I was
- I caught “the cold from hell” – it lasted from mid-October till I got back to Miami in mid-December – after getting caught in a torrential downpour in the middle of Parque de Maria Luisa
- I had a hard time picking out story ideas
- The mail service between Miami and Seville was slower than I anticipated
I still accomplished my mission, even though most of my written-in-Spain material was published in the Winter Term after I returned home on December 18, 1988. I had to fight one of the editors – who wasn’t the section editor to whom I answered to – to keep my text “as is” because she wanted to change everything from “present” tense (as originally written) to “past” tense (because the events I described were one semester in the rear-view mirror, so to speak. Prof. Townsend stepped in and decided that my copy had been written and sent in good faith, so it would be published as written.
So, over four issues of the 1988-1989 academic year’s Winter Term, Catalyst published two of my written-in-Spain columns, a retrospective double truck featuring the photos that I took – with the help of fellow CCIS’er Bob Holzweiss – in Seville and accompanying text, and a written-in-Miami column that summed up my experiences (and frustrations) as the paper’s first foreign correspondent.
My last byline for Catalyst was, perhaps appropriately, a column in which, once again, I looked back at my Seville experience a year later. I reproduce it here in full. (Keep in mind, though, that all costs mentioned in that last article reflect the prices of 1988-1989.)
From the December 13, 1989 issue of Catalyst, Miami-Dade Community College (South Campus)
Study-abroad program gave me learning text never could
One of the most interesting aspects of taking a foreign language course is the opportunity to participate in one of the various study-abroad programs offered by the Foreign Language Department’s Overseas Study Program.
I know because last year I participated in the Miami-Dade Community College/College Consortium for International Studies’ Semester in Spain program.
For three months in the fall of 1988, 42 students (including me) from colleges and universities all over the United States lived and studied in Seville, one of Spain’s largest and most beautiful cities.
And, for many of us, it was a learning experience unlike any other.
Not only did we learn more about the Spanish language, but we also came back with insights about Spain’s culture, history and people that aren’t available in any textbook.
We went to classes (ranging from the required language courses to classes dealing with Spain’s history, political system and artistic heritage) Mondays through Thursdays — either at the CCIS Center or the main campus of the University of Seville — while most Fridays we went on cultural visits to places of interest in and around Seville.
There were also day trips to such places as Jerez de la Frontera, La Rabida and Cordoba.
We also went on an overnight trip to the city of Granada, the city whose architecture inspired George Merrick when he founded Coral Gables back in the ’20s.
Of course, there were other benefits as well.
We learned how to live in a vastly different cultural environment on our own. (Even though one could make an argument that transferring to an out-of-state institution is a similar experience, it’s like comparing cats and dogs.)
We not only had to learn a foreign language and take a 15-credit course load, we had to adapt to the average Spaniard’s lifestyle (especially mealtimes), difficult as that may have been to us Americans.
My fellow CCISer Wendy Page, sophomore, said, “My experiences in Seville have helped me become a stronger person with broader horizons in both heart and mind.”
My own horizons were expanded by my three-month stay in Spain. I learned a great deal about how other people live, and how those people perceive the United States, mainly through living and arguing with two Spanish roommates, Demetrio and Juan Carlos.
The cost of my trip to Seville, including hotels, tour buses, tuition (for 15 credits), and airfare was approximately $3,500. Rent and extra food was another $1,500.
This may sound like a lot of money, but you can get guaranteed student loans from Financial Aid. Also, Pell Grants will cover cost of tuition at Miami-Dade prices ($76.80 for a three-credit class).