To Spain and back

Cassidy Cloninger studied abroad in Spain where she lived with a host family. -Allison Zaucha | The East Carolinian

Two students swap cultures and share experiences

Thousands of miles away from their homes, two Pirates shared their thrilling, intimidating and life-changing experiences as they studied in each other’s home countries, each taking valuable life-lessons away from it.

For Cary, N.C. resident Cassidy Cloninger, senior communication major and Spanish minor, her studies in Grenada, Spain this past June and early July were much different than the two other touristy trips she had taken in high school.

Cloninger and around 25 other Pirates linked up with the Study Abroad service and embarked to southern Spain to embrace the laid back, simpler culture of the Spaniards. The program, IOCI, was sponsored by professor Rosa Lopez-Cañete, whose hometown of Seville isn’t too far away from where they studied.

All of the students were paired and placed with a native host family, immersing themselves with the Spanish language 24/7. Five days a week, the students would walk miles through the city to the University of Grenada and attend class with students from universities across the states, along with international students from other countries.

One major cultural difference, which Cloninger went into detail about, was the four hour nap period, known as a siesta, from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Classes were held from 12 p.m.- 2:15 p.m., then a giant lunch, which they came home for, accompanied by relaxation and then class again from 4 p.m.-6p.m.

“My host mom would make a giant lunch,” said Cloninger. “She would say, ‘I can’t believe you have to go back to class.’ Somehow she didn’t have to go to work after siesta. I don’t know how she worked that out.”

Unlike the U.S., Spain has a lot of specialized stores, rather than general places like Wal-Mart or Target. On one street corner, there would be a fresh fruit stand, the next a bread shop, a pastry shop next to that and a butchery beside that.

“My host mom wouldn’t buy food for the whole week,” said Cloninger. “She would go every day and get fresh stuff.”

“I don’t like meat that much, but it is considered rude to not eat whatever they put on the plate,” said Cloninger as she recalls meat and bread being the prominent foods she ate.

Like Cloninger, graduate student Juan Calvo Cubero, studying in Greenville to earn his PhD in Biology, has had a challenging, but rewarding experience so far.

Originally from Barcelona, Spain, Calvo Cubero landed in the U.S. for the first time this past August, preparing for his studies, along with the arrival of his wife, Marta, and three-month-old son, Liam.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in maritime sciences from the University of Cadiz in southern Spain, Calvo Cubero eventually began working at a research center that was collaborating with professor Dr. Enrique Reyes. After a year of work, Calvo Cubero came back to Greenville with Reyes, and will continue his program for the next two years here in Pirate Nation.

“Here, it is more difficult than in Spain to get a Ph.D. because the classes are better, more intense, demand more from you,” said Calvo Cubero. “It is very different because the classes, the professors want you to speak and discuss, and in Spain it is more listen and nothing else.”

And speaking, as Calvo Cubero mentions, is the most challenging part about being in the U.S.

“The main thing is the language, because if everything were Spanish it would be easy,” said Calvo Cubero, “because it is easy to joke and do a little sentence, but when you say ‘Hello,’ it is hard to say what’s next.”

Though the experience so far has been challenging and intimidating at times, Calvo Cubero was all smiles when he talked about how this was a great challenge, even though he misses Spanish culture.

“The kind of life in the city here, it’s very important to have a car and go every place by car,” said Calvo Cubero. “In Spain, it is more common to walk, all the restaurants are near.”

Even though both Cloninger and Calvo Cuber studied in different counties, they both agreed that it is an amazing experience everyone should take advantage of if they have the opportunity. In order to get a good grip on the world and its cultures, it’s best to learn first hand.

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