Thursday, June 7, 2012

Looking Forward to a Summer in Spain

Mark Kavanaugh, Verrazano Class of 2013, is a Spring 2012 recipient of a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship to support his study abroad experience in Spain during the summer.  This is the first of three posts that Mark will be contributing about his participation in the study abroad program.

My name is Mark Kavanaugh and this summer I will be studying abroad in Santander, Spain. I have had the desire for a study abroad experience for some time, and when I learned of the Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship last fall, I was extremely excited about the potential opportunity. I considered for a time where I would like to go on a sojourn abroad. After weighing the options between places like Brussels, London, and Copenhagen, I finally settled on Santander.

Mark Kavanaugh
Santander, a hidden gem on the northern coast of Spain, is the impressive capital of the region of Cantabria. For me, it seemed like the perfect setting for an adventure in a foreign country. It is situated on a breathtaking beach, is relatively close to the French border, and is only a short flight to other destinations in Europe like London and Rome. The convenience of its location was not the only deciding factor, however. Spain is a varied country, and is home to thriving cultures which would surprise some people. Mexico is not Spain. Spain is a place which has a storied history, having Celtic, Roman, Germanic, and North African roots. It is a singularly unique European country in that it is a nation made up of smaller nations, each with its own people, language, and tradition. I could not pass up the opportunity to visit such an amazing place.

More practically, studying abroad in Spain allowed for completing my minor in the Spanish language. Spanish (commonly called Castilian, or castellano, in Spain) is the majority language and language of government. But Spain is home to other languages, the most widely spoken of which are Catalan, Galician, and Basque. But Castilian has always had a special mystique for me. Within the last five hundred years or so, it has been elevated to a global language, and is increasingly more important to be able to speak competently. I feel it is a good language for me to learn, as I am considering a master’s degree in history, specifically that of medieval Spain. I would also be interested in a side career in literary translations, specializing in Spanish (and perhaps Portuguese, which I am also eager to learn). In short, studying the language in Spain will allow me to complete my minor requirements while also refining my verbal skills.

While in Santander, I will be studying at Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo, which is a university which caters specifically to foreign students. While there, I will take eighty hours of classes, both in language and the culture of Cantabria and Spain as a whole. I will be staying in the university dormitories, close to the city center and all the action which Santander has to offer.

Though there is much to anticipate with a study abroad experience, I am most excited about traveling within Spain and within Europe during the summer. I hope to get down to the city of Pamplona in the region of Navarre so I can see the running of the bulls during the festival of San Fermín. I hope to take a trip to Bilbao, capital of the Basque Country. One of the things I would most like to do is travel to the northeast of Spain and walk across the border into France. I am also quite excited about living on my own in a foreign country for a month, and having an exercise in independence.

However, I am realistic, and I know that the experience will not be without its headaches and drawbacks. Already, the amount of formalities I have had to endure merely to reserve a spot at the university has been exhausting. But it is nearly resolved, and I am well on my way to an enjoyable and enlightening summer in Santander.

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