Taylor Anderson (University of Delaware. Spring 2015).Independent Study: Fitting All the Pieces of the Puzzle Together
When I applied to study abroad, I was so excited. I couldn?t wait to get to Spain and live a life like Lizzie McGuire during her adventures in Rome. I remember registering for my classes in Spain and the minor speed bump I encountered when I found out one of the classes I needed wasn?t being offered. I clearly recall my advisor saying, ?Prof. Amalia Pulgarín has been nice enough to offer to do an independent study with you to earn the credit!? I remember agreeing while half-listening to her. I couldn?t be concerned with an independent study at that point; I was too busy planning my future life abroad as a new world traveler.
As always, reality eventually set in. During the first week of February the luxurious lifestyle I had dreamed of made way to classes and studying as the spring semester began. Amalia and I scheduled our first meeting to discuss my independent study. I still had absolutely no idea what to expect at this point. I can definitely say that I didn?t expect it to turn out as it did. Honestly, I don?t think Amalia did either.
I remember sitting in her office on a Tuesday morning during my break between classes, which would soon become our regular meeting time. Amalia shared some of her ideas for the semester with me, starting with Santa Teresa de Jesus. As I started on my first assignment, my independent study began to snowball.
The reading was interesting and sparked much conversation about Santa Teresa. Amalia began to think how great it would be to share this experience with other students in our program since it was a great opportunity to practice Spanish and discuss literature. Thus, the book club was born and I became the leader.
At this point, I was still a little skeptical. I liked Santa Teresa but I wasn?t sure how it would go over in the book club. During our first meeting, we quickly learned this wasn?t the route we were going to take. Instead, we began to explore a variety of genres.
We started with Celia by the poet Fernando Valverde. The conversation began flowing. Book club blossomed into a discussion of our likes and dislikes about poetry, then literature, then classes, then life. It became a time of debate and discussion. Amalia kept discovering different readings to appeal to our interests and fuel the fire; we decided on La Tesis de Nancy by Ramón J. Sender. With this reading, we could each connect on a personal level with Nancy. Nancy was an American girl studying in Seville and encountering many of the same miscommunications and cultural misunderstandings that we were. Book club became a time of bonding as we opened up to personal discussions and shared our most embarrassing moments with one another. We laughed together as we munched on sweets (Amalia always made sure to have them handy for us!) and many times we went off on tangents about whatever topic. The most important thing for us was that we developed into Spanish-speaking students who could not only hold but direct an entire discussion amongst ourselves. The transformation was incredible as was the fact that we did this all together.
Ironically, the International Festival of Poetry in Granada was being held during our last few weeks abroad. As a part of my independent study, Amalia gave me a variety of works by José Hierro and Prof. Gordon McNeer (University of North Georgia). I had the chance to read these poems and reflect on them before attending a presentation honoring José Hierro, where Prof. Gordon McNeer himself was a presenter. I was honored to be given this opportunity to experience such passion and expression from some of the most amazing poets. I was startled at the level of enthusiasm in the room; the majority of the room was made up of high school students. What surprised me the most was their questions at the end. These questions had to be some of the most deeply thought out questions I have ever heard. The level of emotion attached to each question really stuck with me; I was inspired by these students myself.
Sadly, our final meeting for book club was scheduled for that night. As luck would have it, Amalia was able to get Prof. Gordon McNeer to come and talk with us. It was an absolutely amazing experience and one that will stay with me forever. Hearing a famous poet speak so passionately about his own work and being able to discuss these works with him in a foreign language was the most exhilarating experience.
Through my experiences with my independent study, as leader of the book club and as an attendee to the Festival of Poetry in Granada, I was able to see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Granada is a very proud city, rich in history and art. When you take the time to learn more about it, you can see how the past has affected and continues to affect the future. These amazing poets and writers are inspired by those of the past. They all fit together to make one Granada as a whole of the past, present and future. This semester has taught me more than anything that Granada has become a ?puente.? In Spanish, ?puente? means bridge. Granada has become a bridge for all these amazing experiences and people to encounter. It is a place of opportunity and learning and a place where you will never leave as the same person you came as.
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