Introductory Post for IES Madrid Summer

The opportunity to study abroad is a privilege and a journey that I cannot wait to begin. Like the mantra goes,  “hindsight is always 20/20,” and in the final days of the spring semester of my junior year here at the University of Florida, there is no exception. As a freshman, the thought of starting school was in and of itself a beast I needed to tame. At the same time, the thought of traveling outside of the country was no less daunting and, well, scary, quite frankly. I have never traveled without my parents right by my side; telling my younger brother, sister and I ‘what to pack, where to go, and when to be present.’  Naturally, the thought of doing all of those things on my own seemed as farfetched as any movie about plane malfunctions or hijackings (Although, when I think about it, there have been an unsettling number of incidences like these in the news recently! – add that to the long list of worries I already have about this trip). Now mind you, I did have the same “pre-flight jitters” freshman year while learning my way around the Swamp, finding my classes, and meeting a plethora of new people. But, nonetheless, I am confident that this study abroad experience will mirror the growth I have experienced during my time here as a Florida Gator.

 

My name is Tilman Monsanto and welcome to my Blog! I study anthropology and Spanish at the University of Florida. I also have an interest in public policy, cultural awareness, and gender studies. I have hopes of continuing my education in family law and aspirations of opening a non-profit organization for at risk youth minorities. I can remember first being exposed to Spanish in junior high school. Each student was mandated to pick a language to study as it interested him or her. Lo and behold, my interest in Spanish has lasted ever since. Of Spanish, French, and German, I chose to learn Spanish because of the rising numbers of Latin-American diversity we experience here in the US, especially in Florida (at the time, my best friend had just moved to the States from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic). Not to mention, it is one of the most spoken languages in the world! When I am not putting in hours at the library or at the local children’s shelter, I enjoy putting in hours on the tennis court with the University of Florida Tennis Club, singing at philanthropic events and talent shows around campus, or spending time with friends by the pool in the Florida heat. I do, however, ask that you bear with me, as I have never blogged before. But, with so many news things just around the corner, what is one more and why not start now!?

 

One of the first things I learned when I became a student here at UF is that although the world (or the tons of students here at UF) may seem overwhelming at times, the connections we make are the keys to opening the proverbial doors of life. This is exactly what inspired me to start this blog about my upcoming trip to Madrid, Spain this summer. The Spanish language and culture have always captivated me. I want to take this opportunity to document and share all that I will learn and experience. While searching the Internet in a nerve-wrecked haste to find out exactly what this trip would be like before I go, I came across past student blogs from UF as well as my chosen study abroad program, IES. The travel tips and tricks in these blogs gave me an insider’s scoop on study abroad unlike anything you can find in a travel book or website. They also reassured me that each and every study abroad experience will be different, but it is never a bad thing to prepare for the challenges ahead. These are the people that have “been there and done that,” which really put things into perspective as the trip nears and my to-do list grows. If nothing else, the trials and tribulations described in past students blogs have definitely turned my anxious-energy about traveling into excited-energy!

 

I look forward to learning as much as possible in a place so foreign to the American Worldview that has cultivated the person I am today- foreign linguistically, culturally, monetarily, etc…. – it’s crazy to think about all of the differences, right? I would like to share a tip I have already implemented even on the precipice of my study abroad adventure: to watch television in Spanish. Seems banal at first, I know, but bear with the thought. I am constantly wondering if all of the Spanish I have learned thus far will hold up in Madrid and if I will be able to assimilate to the extremely social culture there. To get my ears in the right state of mind, I started watching a show, called “La Teacher de Inglés,” on hulu.com. This telenovela colombiana is about the intertwined lives of a Colombian English teacher and a businessman looking to travel to the United States to take part in our increasingly globalized world. I find it to be a happy coincidence that this is exactly what I want to do in Spain (which is why I’m hooked on the show)! I have already begun to learn different travel related vocabularies as many scenes in the first episode take place in “el aeropuerto internacional de Bogota” (the Bogota International Airport).  As you can imagine, this study medium is a lot more engaging than reading about grammar nuances in my Spanish textbook. Not to mention, I am starting to familiarize myself with different native accents, dialects, and speeds that vary greatly in spoken Spanish.

 

All in all, my hope for this blog is that it provides other perspective study abroad students and travel enthusiasts alike with a place to learn and experience a new world with me! I look forward to sharing with you all again soon!

~Tilman

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