Truman reflects on biggest takeaways from year in Spain
March 7, 2018
For many high school students, studying abroad for a year is something that is reserved for college. However, for senior Emma Truman, she got a chance to do it when she was a junior.
“I studied abroad in Spain from September of 2016 to May of 2017 in a city called Zaragoza. I had been at SPA for 10 or 11 years, and I kind of wanted to change it up a little bit. I felt that there was a lot of sameness. My mom did the same program and my brother did it too and they both had a really positive experience, so that also inspired me to go.”
Truman had been to Spain multiple times before, and had been learning Spanish since in kindergarten. But last year was her first time ever living there, and there was more than just the language to learn about.
“I definitely thought it would be difficult but I didn’t think it would be as difficult as it was. I thought it’d be hard to make new friends and I thought it’d be hard to live in a whole new language and culture but I think the level of culture shock for me was so much greater than I’d anticipated. I thought that because it was a Western European country it would be in some ways similar culturally to America, but in a lot of ways, it wasn’t. For example, the daily life at SPA, you get up, go to school, maybe do sports, come home, and talk to your family. [You] get up the next day and it feels very automatic. In Spain I felt my life was a lot more spontaneous and I did what I wanted, and also the pace of life was much slower. It didn’t feel like the routine was as regular. I wasn’t expecting that and I loved it.”
The daily life in Spain wasn’t the only thing that surprised Truman.
“I didn’t think that there would be as much sexism and racism as there was, and more anti-semitism. I lived in a really traditional city. It’s very old, so I think some of those ideas are kind of unique to where I lived. There were more traditional gender roles than in America. I felt like there was a strong tradition of a Spanish woman staying home and cooking and cleaning and doing all of these very traditional tasks,” Truman said.
Truman also noticed that Spanish values and American values are very different when it come to day to day life as well.
“There just isn’t as much of an emphasis on work in Spain so the whole idea of work equality and closing the wage gap, they definitely have one but it’s just not as prevalent in their society because work isn’t as big of a deal,” Truman said.
Studying abroad helped Truman grow in ways that wouldn’t have been able to in St. Paul.
“I really grew up. I had to make all new friends, I gained a new level of social maturity. I had to deal with stuff that I didn’t like, there were people from all over the country and it was a really volatile political year. I learned a whole new language and there’s such incredible value in that. I also learned a lot about Spanish people and how working hard isn’t always the best option, like in America we think that to be successful a lot of us feel like we have to work really hard and make a lot of money and in Spain it’s not that way and it kind of opened my eyes to a whole new way of life and that you’re allowed to consider yourself successful and not live by these definite criteria,” Truman said.
After coming back from Spain, Truman feels that one of the most important takeaways was redefining her definition of what it means to be successful.
“Before I went, I thought either Spanish culture would be better or American culture would be better, but after travelling and going abroad I felt like they can coexist and be good for different kinds of people in their cultures. I totally see the value of spending time with your family and caring less about work and having some of these more traditional ideas. But I can also understand trying to be extremely successful in your work and achieve economic success and professional satisfaction. I feel I became less close minded on what it means to be successful and also how you can be in the world, there’s so many good ways to be, it just depends who you are,” Truman said.