NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In May, rising senior women's tennis player Mical Johnson and rising senior women's basketball player Jenny Roy were among a group of students who took part in a Belmont Study Abroad trip to Spain. Recently, the duo spoke to BelmontBruins.com about their experiences with the people, culture, and food of Spain.
Where did you study abroad this summer?
Jenny and Mical: We studied abroad in Spain. We had the opportunity to explore 7 cities which included Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Cordoba, Málaga, Cádiz, and Seville.
What classes did you take?
Jenny and Mical: Third Year Writing and Humanities
What was your favorite memory?
Mical: I have many favorite memories: enjoying the beauty of Spain; getting to know students from Belmont that I don't see on a daily basis; trying to communicate with a host family that spoke no English (Jenny Roy was much better at it than me!); and getting to spend a day at the beach.
Jenny: My favorite memory was going on a weekend trip to Málaga. We rode the high speed train which made the transportation very easy and inexpensive. In Málaga, a group of us were able to explore a Cathedral, the Pablo Picasso Museum, and have some down time on the beach. It was a beautiful city that embraced so many elements of Spain's culture.
Is there a specific place that you would go back and visit? If so, where and why?
Mical: Granada. It felt like the Nashville of Spain to me. There were certain areas that felt like you were in a big city and other areas where it felt like you were in a small town.
Jenny: I would go back and visit Seville again. Even though we spent the majority of our trip here, there was still so much more that I would have loved to explore. Between the restaurants, shops, parks, and buildings, Seville is a wonderful city that is safe and feels like home, yet is still buzzing with excitement. If you know me, you know that I am very directionally challenged. Therefore, no surprise that I often got lost walking around and trying to find places. However, these turned out to be some of the moments I appreciated the most. Seville was the perfect place to take a step back from your normal daily life and explore another culture.
In addition, in Seville we stayed with host families. She opened her home and her heart to us. I enjoyed my time with Senora, and another reason I would love to come back is to see her again!
What was the thing that surprised you the most about the culture and surroundings?
Mical: I didn't realize how much Spanish architecture and design came from the Muslim people. It is beautiful. Also, I knew the electrical outlets would be different, but I was surprised to find only one per room. And I was surprised by how many people smoke!
Jenny: The thing that surprised me the most about their culture was the meal times. They operate on a much later body clock in Spain as lunch isn't until 2pm and dinner isn't until 9pm. At first this was an adjustment, but I soon realized why it is that way. In Spain, they embrace the idea of a siesta, a daytime nap. One could leave work and go home and rest and then come back later and work a little more before dinner. They were on no strict schedule. This phenomenon was very different to me because Americans often have a set work schedule and home by dinner. Another interesting difference in cultures that surprised me was the fact that when eating out in Spain they don't separate checks. Often eating out with a big group, this cultural difference made it a little difficult. However, by the end of the trip we were all math majors and pros when it came to splitting the check ourselves.
Every building was beautiful which I expected coming in but still amazed me. No words or pictures can do the architect justice, and I developed a much greater appreciation for history being there.
How was the food? What was your favorite meal?
Mical: The food was good. My favorite dish that I tried was vegetable paella. This dish consisted of fluffy yellow rice, red and green peppers, onions, tomatoes, turmeric, saffron, and garlic. It was very good! Spain is also known for an appetizer called Berenjenas Fritas con Miel. These are slices of fried eggplant topped with a dark honey sauce. It has a very unique taste but I would recommend that you try it if you visit Spain!
Jenny: The food was good. In a naive way, I thought it would be a lot of tacos, and guacamole, and salsa; however, that was not even close. In Spain they often eat meals called Tapas which are like little appetizers. They have many options and were fun to try. However, my favorite food (besides the gelato of course;) ) was the Papaya. (*picture below) The rice had delicious seasoning. It wasn't too spicy but was so flavorful and tasted like nothing I had ever had before.
After being overseas for this period of time, what did you miss most about "home" (U.S.)?
Mical: My mom and coffee other than espresso.
Jenny: I think being overseas made me miss the simplicity of communication. I often take for granted small conversations until I was in a place where I couldn't have any. Not speaking any Spanish made communication very difficult. It was hard to want to say something but not know how to convey it. Thankfully, with the help of google translate and my fellow classmates, I managed. However, safe to say it was nice to come home and order food or have a conversation and not think twice about it.
Would you recommend other Belmont student-athletes (or students) go on this trip?
Mical: I would recommend that all students take advantage of Belmont's study abroad opportunities. It is a great experience to not only learn about another part of the world, but to also learn about yourself. I made new friends on this trip and have many more takeaways outside of what I learned in the classroom.
Jenny: I would highly recommend this trip to other Belmont student-athletes. It truly was the experience of a lifetime. Not only are you able to get class credit, but you are able to learn from an outside of the classroom perspective. The trip was easy because Belmont coordinated all the hotels, tours, transportation- all you have to do is pack your bag. Often times when traveling, the preparation can be the largest stressor so I was very pleased with how the program was set up and amazed at everything we accomplished. In addition, this trip is special because you get to experience a foreign country with other Belmont students some of which you have never met before. I was amazed at the friendships I built and will be forever thankful for them. It was such a special opportunity, and I would encourage everyone to Study Abroad.