Guest Post: Cádiz Summer 2011

On a recent visit to New York City, I spent the morning wandering through the MoMA, trying to escape from the hustle and bustle outside just long enough to appreciate some of the most influential artwork of our century. As I gazed at Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” I suddenly had a flashback to Cádiz. Only a few weeks prior, I was sitting in a classroom, feeling the sea breeze blowing through the tall balcony windows and listening to Professor Alberto’s passionate lecture on Dali, including the Spanish artist’s first exhibit in New York, and his famous painting, “La Persistencia de la Memoria.”

In sharp contrast to modern and hectic NYC, Cádiz is very quaint and laid-back.  It is one of the oldest cities in Europe on the southern coast of Spain. Siesta time, from 2 to 6 o’ clock, is observed by all businesses with the exception of Café Chamara, where you can get full service, free WiFi, and all of your homework and projects done daily. La Caleta, Playa Santa Maria del Mar, and Playa Victoria are packed with friendly Gaditanos relaxing and enjoying the beaches, no matter what day of the week. Strolling through the narrow streets you are bound to run into a familiar face, whether it is the fruit stand lady from Frutas Chico or the Chinese merchant who ran the local bazaar.     

When I left for Cádiz, I thought I had a pretty good handle on Spanish culture.  I had spent some time visiting my Madrileño boyfriend and his family in Spain last summer. Based on our two-year relationship, I figured I knew what to expect.  However, when I revisited Spain this summer through my William & Mary study abroad, I discovered that there was so much more to Spain than I had ever known. 

At the Universidad de Cádiz, I loved my classes, especially my Historia del Arte en Andalucía course. My teacher, Alberto, had such a passion for Art History that his excitement was contagious. Thanks to his lectures and enthusiasm, Spanish Art History truly came alive.  Weekend excursions to Sevilla and Granada were even better because I was able to recognize the art and architecture that I had learned about in class. I found a greater appreciation for the vast history of Andalucía.

Living in a homestay, I became part of my host family, which we lovingly dubbed “La familia de las mujeres,” as our household was comprised of five women. I was touched by the generous hospitality I received throughout my stay, but what struck me most was how much my family genuinely cared for me.  Halfway through my study abroad, my boyfriend and I broke up. Because he was Spaniard, I was certain that my experience in Spain would be tarnished, as I couldn’t go anywhere or see anything without being reminded of him. I was devastated and seriously considered going home early. My host mom and sisters encouraged me to stay. They were incredibly supportive and shared their personal stories and experiences with me. 

It was in working through my breakup that I came to realize that despite all the cultural differences between Spain and America, we do have a lot in common. My family in Spain took care of me with the same love and kindness as my own family here in the US would. I am so happy I stayed in Cádiz and finished my program.  Even now, I can’t help but smile when I see Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” because this summer in Cádiz will forever persist in my memory.

Aly Brahe, class of 2014, is a Biology/Pre-medicine major and Hispanics Studies minor. She studied abroad in Cádiz, Spain, in summer 2011. She enjoys traveling; one of her favorite places is Hawaii, where she lived for four years. This fall, Aly will be doing biology research, volunteering at the Angels of Mercy Medical Clinic, working as a tutor for the Tribe TutorZone, and participating in Catholic Campus Ministry.

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