This week, senior Samantha tells us about her challenging yet incredibly rewarding five months in Sevile, Spain, through which she learned to embrace the uncomfortable.
By Samantha Cohen ’18, Sociology major, Business minor
Learning a new language is difficult. And for deaf people, it is very difficult. That is why it was a bit surprising to my parents, and even myself, when I officially decided to spend the Spring semester of my Junior year studying abroad in Seville, Spain.
For hearing people, learning a new language can be like learning the lyrics to a new song that you hear on the radio. For the hearing-impaired, we have to pause the music and practice the words one by one. We are always struggling to capture the words while they run away from us. It requires a lot of time and energy. To say the least, it is a complex process, and on occasions, very frustrating.
I had been studying Spanish for six years throughout my middle- and high-school years. However, when I came to Cornell as a student in Arts and Sciences, studying the language became less of a chore and more of a skill of which I could be proud. In just three semesters, I saw more progress in my language development and understanding than I had seen in the past six years combined. I was scared yet ready to take the ultimate leap of faith: to study and live with a family in Spain.
Along with ten other Cornell students, I arrived at the city of Seville and started what would become five months of classes at the Universidad de Sevilla. This entailed meeting with new friends for a mid-day “café con leche,” watching Spanish Jeopardy with my host-mom Rosario, taking long bike rides through Parque María Luisa, and eating more oranges than you could possibly imagine (Seville is known for its orange trees!). I travelled to other cities in Spain to see the aqueducts of Segovia and the famous Gothic cathedral in Toledo, which I had learned about during the first week of my Spanish Art class. I spent three days on my own in the Northern Basque country and then flew out to meet up with three Cornell friends from my program to relax and eat paella on the beaches of Valencia.
I won’t say my semester was an easy one. I had my fair share of awkward moments with the host-mom because I couldn’t understand her jokes. I spent countless hours hungry waiting for the clock to read 9:30pm – the typical dinner time in Spain – to eat dinner. I failed my first exam. I got lost navigating winding cobblestone streets with no access to Google Maps.
But all in all, I would not change any of the experiences I had during my semester abroad. It was the challenges, both academic and emotional, that made those five months incredibly rewarding. I gained a new family. I learned to laugh when I mishear something. I learned to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Although I’m happy to be back on Cornell campus for my senior year, I routinely browse through my photos and keep up WhatsApp conversations with my Spanish family. As the people of Seville would say, “No me ha dejado” (It has not left me).