Spanish teaching assistant and graduate student Abraham Sirviente Muñoz-Cruzado is an avid enthusiast and devotee of studying abroad; he agrees with the general consensus that the experience can be the height of any college student's career – for the most part.
"I was in the sunny and beautiful Spain before coming to the grey and dark Geneseo," was Sirviente's first insightful remark. But pushing the weather factor aside, Sirviente's passion for travel came to the surface: "You go abroad and see a lot of things you've never seen. You live in another culture, it makes you quicker and more open to experiences."
"[In Spain], we thought, American people are very cold, and I thought, well, maybe it's true. But no, it's not at all," he said.
Sirviente, who is 24 years old, has lived in El Puerto de Santa María on the Guadalete River in Cádiz, a province in southern Spain, since he was eight. "It literally means the heaven of the docks," he said. "My home life was beautiful. Spain is a country where everyone goes for the holidays, and you can imagine why."
Sirviente studied at the University of Cádiz, just 20 kilometers from his home. In 2010 he graduated and received his degree in foreign language education – maestro lengua extranjera. He also has an unfinished history degree which he said he might complete upon his return home, if time permits.
To add to his list, Sirviente spent a month and a half studying at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland where he took an English course. "I love Ireland. Where I lived, people were very close," Sirviente said. "You go there and you're invited in: ‘come get a pint,' you know? I will work there someday. It's my target."
College in Spain, Sirviente said, is a comparable experience to that in the United States, but some differences arise: consistent 70-degree weather, beaches within walking distance and a commute to school via boat, just to name a few.
"We don't have a big campus and the people don't live on the campus like here," Sirviente said. "Here, people take student life more seriously because you are in the ambience. You live, eat and sleep on campus. And you also study, of course."
"Normally you hang out in your rooms, quads or suites, then go out to the ‘IB' or something like that," he said, "It's not like that in Spain. We meet somewhere outside and we walk, dozens of miles. And then we have a fiesta." On another note, Sirviente had something to say about the on-campus creatures: "The cats here are like lions. I think they feed on the squirrels," he said.
Sirviente takes both a German and a Chinese class here and said that classroom settings are analogous to those of Spain: "For instance, everyone is on Facebook. That happens in every country," Sirviente said. "But, I think that languages are more participative here than in Spain. Students do more things and participate more," he added.
Currently, Sirviente is teaching Spanish 101: Elementary Spanish; next semester he will go on to teach Spanish 102 and Spanish 300: Conversation. "When I teach Spanish it's a relief like, ‘yes, I can finally speak Spanish' and I relax," he said.
Sirviente is unsure now what he will do when his studies conclude this spring. "I would like to wander around the world, that's my idea." As one last piece of wisdom, Sirviente advised, "Go abroad. Don't stay here and die here. You have to move before establishing yourself in just one place."