Meg Williams is a Junior majoring in Nursing at the University of Utah. She traveled to Oviedo, Spain during the summer of 2010 with the Spanish Language and Culture study abroad program.
When I first arrived in Oviedo, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. In fact, after arriving from a long bus ride into a small city and getting picked up soon after by my host family, I was feeling all sorts of emotions. My host mom was talking in Spanish “mas rapidamente” as I would put it. To be honest, I caught a few words here and there, but mostly nodded my head and responded with, “Sí.” I was scared, excited, anxious, and curious.
We arrived at our small apartment and I was shown my new bedroom and told the rules and ins-and-outs of the house. Even though I was nervous and could barely understand this new language, I felt my host mother’s instant hospitality and patience. We were walked to school on the first day of class, and we got split into our different classes. I loved the group I was put with and felt the criteria challenging and fun. I wanted to learn as much as I could while living in Spain, and was glad my professors looked to push my limits.
My host family was one of my favorite things about my experience in Spain. I lived with a single mother and two of her daughters. One was my age at 19, and the other was 17 years old. In the beginning I thought how am I ever going to understand all they’re saying? But as time went by, I realized I would leave the dinner table having chatted for an hour and a half, all in Spanish. I felt like living with a Spanish family and being separated from all other students was a benefit, and it immersed me directly in their culture.
Another one of my favorite things about my experience in Oviedo were the excursions our groups went on. We went to Gijón, Llanes, Covadonga, Santillana del Mar, and other spots around northern Spain. My favorite, however, was the weekend we all got to choose to go wherever we had time and money for. Six of us went to Barcelona, and flew there for the weekend. We had the time of our lives, and stayed right on Las Ramblas, the main and famous street in the city. We spent our time at the beach, paid for a walking tour that ended up taking us to an old castle and Font Mágica, toured the Sagrada Familia, Casa de Gaudi, Parque de Guell, and attended a real Flamenco and opera concert. The whole weekend we were lucky with the good weather, and we realized most everyone else’s weekends had been rained out. Good thing we chose to go to Barcelona!
Besides the fun excursions, I loved exploring and choosing different activities to do with my friends after school and our siestas. We’d always meet up at a certain statue by El Parque de San Francisco, and head out from there. Some days, when the weather was sunny and warm, we’d head to Gijón where we’d enjoy the rays of the sun on the beach. One time after school, a group of us decided to hike up to La Cristus; a statue of Christ on the top of the hill overlooking the city. It was a fun experience and an incredible view from the top. Even though we froze to death on the peak, the adventure and exercise was worth it. Other times, I enjoyed shopping at the small markets in the town or watching the people in the park. While we were there, the World Cup was going on, and Spain was doing very well (seeing they won the entire thing in the end). We’d go to a local bar or place where other locals would gather and we’d cheer on Spain together. I just remember the loud chants we’d join in on… “¡España! ¡España! ¡España!”
During our time there, the Spaniards celebrated something they called “La Hoguera de San Juan.” At midnight, the locals would gather around a huge pile of wood by the main cathedral in town. Next, everyone would write something down on a piece of paper; something they wanted to forget, or a memory they wanted to burn. At midnight, all the lights went out and they put on a show with costumed Asturians and even a large dragon. There was a man holding a torch, and he led a march with the dragon right behind him. He circled the audience until he was standing at the base of the pile of wood. Then, after he lit the stack, everyone held hands in a gigantic circle and did a traditional dance around the bonfire. It was an exciting night and one I’ll never forget.
I absolutely loved my experience in Oviedo! The Spanish culture is incredible and the people in the places we traveled were always friendly and helpful. I loved my adventures in Spain and our backpacking adventure through Europe afterward as well. I would definitely recommend the study abroad to Oviedo, Spain to anyone who is looking for a fun and interesting experience.