It was my great pleasure this week to interview my host Mom, Rosa, this week. (Sorry Mom, Mary Ellen Cherney!) From the first day I met Rosa we’ve shared a special bond, she took us in with open arms and has been tirelessly caring for us like her own children. Rosa is like a mother to me and I am very thankful for that. Thus she has officially been added as the third mom in my list at this point, I’ve been graced in this life to have such wonderful mother figures in all walks of life. My interview with Rosa was mediated by my two fluent Spanish speaking roommates, Marianna and Roxanne, a special thanks for the help! They asked and translated my questions to Rosa and I was writing furiously as much of what Rosa was saying as possible. The primary purpose of this discussion was to get Rosa’s cultured viewpoint on Spain, Sevilla, and the United States in order to gain insight about my own cultural experiences and life as a student in Sevilla.
Rosa hails from Peru, which she considers her favorite place in the world, as it is where her heart will always be, she told me. She came here to Spain to make a better life for her family and to particularly give her children opportunities to succeed and become educated. She indeed has been able to do just that and more through perseverance, hard work, and with her infectious positive spirit. Mothers are without doubt a special blessing in this crazy journey we call life. As our host Mom, Rosa cooks lunch and dinner for us six days a week and generally does housekeeping. She does not know any English besides a particularly lively, “Oh My Gawwwd!” which she sprinkles in here and there for extra gusto. Just this past summer, Rosa visited Boston and New York City with her husband, Roberto. I guess one last contextual note here is a humble brag, which is that all my roommates in the apartment think I am her favorite.
(The interview took place in a bright dining room on one of the last summer nights here in Sevilla, it is still very warm at night and even at nine o’clock the street lights add to the last sliver of sunlight to combine for a soft ambiance outside. Rosa is still in her chef’s apron and is seated next to me, beaming. We have just wrapped up a delectable dinner of pork bathed in gravy and mashed potatoes- made by Rosa. Roberto tenderly places his hands on Rosa’s shoulders, and she responds to my questions with an embarrassed aura as she is unaccustomed to being interviewed. Nevertheless, she is happy as can be to be helping me in my blog.)
In regards to my questions about Sevilla, Rosa had nothing but praise. Rosa told me that Sevilla is a unique and special city that stands apart from the rest of Spain. She further explained that Sevilla is a city which contains an educated and kind hearted people that are especially easy going. She contrasted this to her visits to Boston and New York, “The people there are crazy! They eat everywhere, are always trying to get somewhere, and no siesta!” She added that Sevilla is the place where she raised her family, they are happy here, and that has made her so grateful and proud of Sevilla. I asked Rosa if there was anything she could change about Sevilla, what would it be? She responded that she wouldn’t change a thing. Through my own eyes this city has instilled in me a similar feeling of warmth that Rosa referred to. Sevilla is a city that has it all: a rich history, educational institutions, a dynamic culture, and healthy tourism. Rosa would like to add that it is awfully beautiful here in Sevilla. I concur.
My next series of questions were about how Spaniards see American students and tourists. Rosa admitted that Spaniards, in particularly young Spaniards, are jealous of our opportunities to study and that they see us as a very cultured people. For example, most Spaniards will see someone on a train or on a bench reading or studying and automatically conclude that it must be an American. A good grade here is considered a C or 70. I know when I think of how it is back home, most students are going for straight As. Truly though, we as Americans are very fortunate to have the privilege to study almost anywhere in the world. Another difference between young Americans and Spaniards are how each group approaches night life. Generally, Americans drink and go out to be smashed and have a wild night. On the contrary, Spaniards don’t drink heavily, yet still enjoy the same party atmosphere that us Americans enjoy all too well.
Finally, I inquired about Rosa’s personal feelings on taking care of us foreign students almost 7 days a week. Gracefully, Rosa explained that she doesn’t even consider caretaking as work, she just loves doing it naturally. Rosa is an incredibly selfless woman. Above all she loves to cook for us, (and trust me she is an otherworldly cook). What’s more is that she is passionate in helping us. It brings her much happiness to be around us and to be a mentor in our journey abroad. Even when I asked Rosa about how we differed from her own children, she simply replied, “Very little. You all are my responsibility and I take that very seriously. I do this because I love to”.
When I think of Rosa I am reminded that in this Rite of Passage I am going through here in Sevilla, it is vital to have a strong mentor. I feel so lucky to have a constant companion in Rosa day in-day out. Even if I’m having a turbulent day or feel confused about something she is there to point me in the right direction and put a smile on my face. She is more than just a caretaker; she is a genuine person who treats us like her own. It is has made an immense difference in creating a positive atmosphere for me. I can easily call this place home thanks to her. This comfort level is key to assimilating in your experience abroad that cannot be overlooked. You have to feel at ease, or as I would call it, tranquilo.
Rosa’s words have allowed me to understand more about Sevilla and the people of Spain in a healthy perspective. She may have seemed to be gloating about Sevilla the whole time, but I can almost certainly confirm her assertions. Sevilla truly is a wonderful place to be as a foreign student. I have felt the utmost welcome here. From her perspective I can see what drives the Spanish people. Before this interview I felt that the average Spaniard is somewhat lazy due to their extreme patience and slowness. But Rosa’s testament has opened my eyes to all the hard working individuals I see every day in the city. Down the street, at a café I frequent there is a waiter, his name is Julio. He too, has reached out to us and has been incredibly kind. Julio is the type of guy who is there every day working hard, but all the same, enjoying every moment to the fullest. I really do appreciate that trait in Spaniards. They are steadfast workers that tend to have a positive outlook and it’s visible. The stereotype of Spaniard’s slowness is just a veil that does not impart the whole story. They are secretly illustrious people who happen to enjoy relaxing in their spare time. Americans are constantly in motion and cannot appreciate this, I feel. The positively charged emotion that Spaniards display is not what can be said of the blue collar American labor force. The Spanish moral principles seem to reflect to me the Golden Rule, defined in chapter five of Studying Abroad/Learning Abroad as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (J. Daniel Hiess, 49).
In closing, now that I have increased my awareness of the subtleties of the Spanish culture, I can relate that back home I don’t involve myself with the Fraternity life. If I were to sit down with a fraternity member at Quinnipiac and ask them about their take on their community I’m sure I would be amazed at their descriptions. My preconceived perceptions would likely be disarmed. It is an important lesson I’ve learned during my time abroad, first hand, not to judge a book on its cover. Studying abroad will constantly flip your expectations upside down like this. Here in Spain I’ve just learned to go with the flow and to keep a cheerful outlook.
Hess, J. Daniel. Studying Abroad/learning Abroad: An Abridged Edition of The Whole World Guide to Culture Learning. Yarmouth, Me., USA: Intercultural, 1997. Print.