Sunday, April 18, 2010

The update

I received a letter in the mail a while back from my grandparents filling me in on the new happenings in Nebraska. At the end of the letter, my grandma mentioned that she would love to hear more about my classes and the study aspect of my study abroad experience. At this suggestion, I realized that I had barely mentioned class in any of my posts in quite some time. Now that I am about half-way done with my classes, I guess my grandma is right- an update is due.

I am taking mostly history and literature classes on subjects ranging from Modern Latin America to Romantic Spanish Literature. The classes I take directly at the university are smaller than most of my classes at Michigan and are much more focused on the lecture than discussion or class participation. Students take notes in paragraph form, I'm assuming writing down every single word the professor says. Monday through Thursday I take classes almost straight from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and I then head home for lunch. My favorite class so far is probably my modern Latin America class which (despite what modern means to most of us) covers Latin America from 1492 through the 18th century. Because Sevilla had a monopoly on all the trade to and from the Americas during this time, the professors have access to incredible amounts of information and documentation about the Americas during this time sitting right next door to the Universidad in the Archivo de las Indias. The class is taught by two professors- the lecturer is this jolly older man whose passion for the material he's teaching is apparent. He remains incredibly concerned that his American students will not understand the cultural background that is often needed to "get" what he is explaining about life in the Spanish colonies and takes time after class to check in with us. The other professor is a younger woman who wears impeccably put together outfits every day and whose gaze can cause me to squirm and wish I could sink under my desk. She is in charge of taking us through the original documents that pertain to the lecture from the week and has us read aloud from old Spanish texts... When native speakers struggle to get through the texts... well, you can imagine that it is particularly mortifying for the non-natives!  

The classes also have very little day to day work and are almost all exclusively graded on your final paper and/or exam. The problem with this is that it is very easy to forget that not everything can be put off until June. Right now, I have 8 article responses, two final research papers that need to be approximately 10 pages long, a journal and a fair amount of supplemental reading... to start! And that's all to finish before I can think about the exams. So, while it has been great to lay on the beach and travel nearly every weekend, we will all have to face reality pretty soon here! 

But it's hard to get in the rhythm of buckling down to work when in the last month alone, I've had a full 18 days of class off! My friends have travelled all over Europe in the past month and many of them have facebook albums entitled things along the line of "Vacation from vacation." For organization's sake, I'll have to write about my vacation from my vacation another time.

PS: there's another post RIGHT under this one that's new too :) 

1 comment:

  1. I have been amiss in not commenting on how much we enjoyed reading about your classes! It was most interesting. Your history & literature classes are providing you a fresh & unique perspective. It was interesting to read of your fellow students approach to note-taking. Reading about your two contrasting professors reminded me of a couple of my own college professors. Like your jolly, older professor whose eagerness to share his knowledge beyond the limits of his lecture reminded me of Dr. Stary, who "ate, slept & drank" her subject material and always went the extra-mile in helping her students master the subject material in a very caring way. The other professor was meticulous about his attire, and the boutonnière he wore in his lapel every day. His lectures very dry indeed and I fear I retained very little of their content.
    By now, a far amount of time has elasped since you posted your comments about the academic aspect of your studies & you are getting down to crunch time in completing your journal entries & your two final research papers as your semester abroad rapidly comes to a close. What a wonderful experience you have had--both in the classroom & the culture of Spain! ~ Grandma Reimer