A semester in Spain is more than just book learning

Cass, the lead character of the play Wonder of the World, pursued her quest for adventure and excitement with all her heart. This fall Jessi Schwartz '07 followed in the heroine's footsteps. Schwartz played 'Cass' in the Adams State College Theatre production last spring.

Schwartz spent the fall 2005 semester studying in Spain.

"It was an experience just to realize something else is out there," Schwartz said. "It was life-changing. I feel lucky to live where we do and appreciate everything we have in a way I didn't before traveling. I also realize we aren't always 'right.' Some of the different customs made more sense."

Her father heard about a friend of Schwartz', Lauren Shumake, going to Spain for a semester and encouraged his daughter to go with her.

"I have studied Spanish for seven years," Schwartz said. "I wasn't able to apply it and I was on the verge of giving up. After four months in Spain, my Spanish definitely improved."

Schwartz and Shumake attended the University of Granada in Granada, Spain and attended grammar, business and the culture and civilization of Latin America classes.

Their tuition included housing.

"Lauren and I lived with a family," Schwartz said. "It was good to be immersed in the culture, which was one reason I chose Granada. It is known for Flamenco Dancing."

The climate in Granada is much more humid than in Colorado.

"The leaves go from green to dead in Granada," Schwartz said. "And there was no snow. It was beautiful, but completely different aesthetically. We were an hour from the Alpujarras Mountains and an hour from the Almunecar beaches."

Besides the climate, the customs and everyday chores were different Schwartz said.

"You only flush the toilet once a day and take a shower every other day," Schwartz said. "And ham is served everywhere. At first it was a real treat, and then we got tired of eating it. However, once Lauren and I were back in the states we both would say, 'I wish we could have some of that ham.'"

One of the Spanish customs Schwartz said she enjoyed was the 'tapa' served when you ordered an alcoholic drink.

"Whenever we ordered a beer in Spain it comes with a little snack, a tapa," Schwartz said.

While in Europe Schwartz said they traveled to England, France, Germany, and Italy.

"It was a great confidence booster," Schwartz said. "I had never been on any subway system. If you can figure out the exits in a foreign language, you know you'll be able to handle a system in your own language."

Schwartz said she and Shumake didn't let the language boundary keep them from socializing.

"We knew Spanish and English, but that didn't help in Germany, France or Italy," Schwartz said. "Lauren and I oftentimes sat and had coffee with other people and had to find ways to communicate."

As a theatre major Schwartz has experience in communicating.

"Jessi is a person who lights up a room with her positive energy," Dr. John Taylor, associate professor of Theatre, said. "I know that she represented Adams State College well during her time in Spain. I am proud of Jessi that she took the initiative to expand her understanding of the world."

Schwartz and Shumake went through the International Studies Abroad which coordinated the schooling in Spain and their current colleges in the United States.

According to the website, http://www.studiesabroad.com/, for almost twenty years, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has been helping students see the world. ISA currently offers study abroad programs in Spain, Italy, France, England, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Each academic program is designed to help students gain a cultural understanding and personal independence that can only be achieved by living and studying in another country.

"It was kind of scary ordering in a restaurant in the other countries," Schwartz said. "We'd just point to something on the menu. Once it arrived we didn't know how to eat it or what it was, it was an adventure."