Alexandria Ewing Makes the Most Out of Madrid
Alexandria Ewing, a Wayne State junior majoring in in speech communication and Spanish, says Madrid was the place to be last summer. Alexandria, along with students Danielle Polt, Anna Osten and adviser Dr. Tracie Amend, WSC assistant professor of Spanish, spent a month in the capitol of Spain as part of the Wayne State College Spanish Study Abroad Program.
Although Alexandria had studied Spanish in high school and visited Mexico in 2010, which she said truly opened her eyes to how many people speak Spanish, she said there’s nothing like fending for yourself for a month in a city dominated by the Spanish language.
“I learned how to put my communication skills into use for both of my majors,” Alexandria said. “You have to learn to speak with native people. I also learned the difference between Latin American Spanish and European Spanish. In Spain, they’re much more formal.”
For Alexandria, who was placed at Level Two of Four in her academic placement exam taken on the first day of her Madrid trip, the pace of speaking in Madrid was also a challenge.
“A lot of the people speak very quickly, so the first thing I learned to say when I got there was ‘You’re speaking too fast!’” Alexandria said.
While in Madrid, a city of 3.4 million people, Alexandria and her travel mates stayed with a Spanish host family in a downtown neighborhood.
“Our host mother didn’t know English, but that was actually helpful,” Alexandria said. “At first I hated it, but she told me later I was the one who had improved my Spanish the most.”
Besides obtaining six credit hours for studying at Estudio Sampere, also called Sampere University, Alexandria published a research paper called “Tiempo Libre,” or “Free Time.” But to fully grasp how Madrid natives spend their free time, Alexandria immersed herself in the Spanish language and culture.
“After classes, I would go out and see the city,” Alexandria said. “I made sure I went out every weekend.”
Alexandria loved visiting the dance clubs, also called discotecas, which were open from midnight to 6 a.m. She also went to a flamenco (Spanish ballet) show, ate at different restaurants and tried various Sangrias at different bars.
“I also went to soccer games at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium,” Alexandria said. “It was the Euro Cup when I was there. I even bought a jersey with my name on it.”
While in Madrid, Alexandria took salsa lessons at a National Geographic store, went shopping at a nearby plaza galled Puerta del Sol, watched bull fights, visited museums and even cooked for her host mother, who she affectionately calls “mi madre de español.”
Sampere University also provided traveling opportunities for their foreign students throughout their month of stay.
“Every Saturday, we had excursions through the university. We would go and visit different cities, including Toledo and Seville,” Alexandria said. “I met a lot of people. In my class, I have a friend from Japan now, Yoku. I also have a friend named Daniel from Germany and José from Spain. We still talk on Facebook. The next time I’m in Spain, José and I plan to reconnect.”
Amend also loved the Saturday excursions. When she wasn’t sitting in on the students’ classes or touring Spain with them, she would do research for her book and attend theatrical shows.
“This trip was designed for our majors so they could really learn their Spanish,” Amend said. “The number-one thing is immersion. There’s nothing like being there and having to fend for yourself. Number two is that you become a global citizen and start to see your culture through a different prism.”
Not only did Alexandria and the other students improve their Spanish during the trip, they also learned how to step out of their comfort zones and embrace a new country.
“I enjoyed the independence and loved being in a foreign country on my own,” Alexandria said. “I met new people I wouldn’t have if I just stayed inside.”
For those interested in an experience like Alexandria’s, there is another upcoming opportunity to study Spanish abroad.
For four weeks in the summer of 2013, June 2 through July 3, Dr. Adolfo Cacheiro will be taking students to Costa Rica to focus on enhancing Spanish language skills and understanding of Latin American culture through immersion.
Focusing on campus opportunities for Spanish students or students interested in learning the culture and language, Amend points out that Spanish Club hosts events, such as field trips, contests like the “Day of the Dead” altar making contest held in November, and is hoping to produce another Spanish play next fall.
Amend also hosts “Tertulia,” which is a Spanish conversation table available from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesdays in the Lower Student Center. Also on campus are the Spanish Honorary Society Sigma Delta Pi and the International Club.