Bronwynne Castle is a sophomore in Art History at the University of Utah. She participated in the summer 2011 Intensive Spanish Language in Oviedo, Spain, program.
It is impossible to know what it is like to live in another culture until you actually do it. It is impossible to know what it is like to be surrounded by people who speak a language that you don’t understand until you have done it. It is impossible to understand what it feels like to get off an airplane and find yourself in another place, another world another experience another life that is completely different from the one you are familiar with until you have tried it. That is what it was like to go on study abroad to Oviedo. I said goodbye to my parents on a Saturday morning and a day and a half later I was in Madrid. We got a cab and began to speak our first Spanish to a cab driver who spoke no English. His radio was playing American music by Rihanna. I remember how absolutely exciting it was to be there on our way to Oviedo.
One of the biggest surprises for me was how beautiful Oviedo is. The sidewalks are tile, the stairs around the city are marble and the building are tall with hanging flowers and clean, brightly colored laundry. Several times a week it rained and left the city feeling washed and renewed. The people were friendly and beautiful. I felt happy and safe. There is a beautiful cathedral in Oviedo, the Catedral Metropolitana Basílica de San Salvador (the Metropolitan church of our Holy Savior) in the city. It was built in 1388. Her eight-sided gothic spire can be seen from anywhere in the city and there were many times I used it to find my way home.
The mornings in Oviedo were always overcast but by noon I could feel if it was going to be hot the rest of the day or damp and stormy. The weather was a constant reminder that I was somewhere far away from home. It felt different. The air was never dry. It smelled different; organic and musty. My skin was soft and moist and I couldn’t figure out what to do with, what had become, my unruly head of frizzy hair. A head-band was the answer. The hope of ever making it smooth and straight was abandoned early on.
My family was sweet. It was a middle-aged couple, Maxi and Nellie. They tried hard to make me feel safe and happy. When I told them early on that I liked eggs, it meant that I had eggs for every lunch and dinner. I had to be careful not to let them know how much I liked something because they made sure I always had it. Quickly I realized how much I liked the fruit. The peaches were delicious; they dripped down my hands when I ate them and on the inside they were a beautiful red that faded to orange and then yellow. It makes me sad to know I will never have a peach that tastes that good again.
Eventually I became known to Maxi and Nellie and their extended family as a girl who drinks a lot of water, eats a lot of fruit and walks fast. I met their family in Lavares where they had a family home. We picnicked and relaxed in the serene country side. It is a little town of white building s with red tile roofs nestled in the mountains south of Oviedo. I remember looking at the trees there and realizing that I had never seen trees like that before. They were almost like the trees around Salt Lake, but then, no, they were completely different.
I have left the best of my experience in Spain, for last. I loved going to school. I loved learning Spanish. I loved going to class every day. I loved my teacher. His name was Pablo. He worked very hard to explain things. He was thorough. He would always give us time to get all of our questions answered. He had many interesting ways of teaching us and making things clear. He was gentle and kind. I was surprised that I could actually learn Spanish. Before the semester was over I was thinking in Spanish.
Now that I am home I am thinking of ways that I can use my Spanish and find ways to learn more. In my work at the bank I have been able to speak it to customers but I would like to find an on-going way to use the language. I do not want to forget the things I have worked so hard to learn.
All in all, going to Spain was, and always will be, one of the most enchanting experiences of my life. It has changed me forever.
Thanks so much.