CAMBRIDGE, Mass.- Junior Morgan Melito of the Harvard softball team spent her summer in Spain with the Summer Institute of Hispanic Studies program. Read about her experience below.
This summer, I am grateful to have traveled to Spain with the Summer Institute of Hispanic Studies (SIHS), a five-week academic program of Spanish language, literature, art and culture. The program comprised of both Harvard and Yale students who were dedicated to the utmost development and advancement of our Spanish speaking abilities. We conversed strictly in Spanish with our peers, teachers, and staff in Spanish for the entire duration of the program. My Spanish speaking abilities have improved dramatically. I feel confident in my abilities and I now have the courage to strike up a conversation with a native speaker, but I know that I must continue to utilize the language in order to continue to grow as a speaker. In the first week, we traveled around Spain, hitting just about every city stretching from Madrid, through the southern region of Andalucía, including the cities of Granada, Nerja, Cordoba, Sevilla, Valle de Jerte, Salamanca, and back up to Leon, where we resided for the remaining 4 weeks. There, I enrolled in two classes at the University of Leon – a Spanish grammar class and a Spanish Art History Class. These two classes were of particular interest to me, specifically the Spanish Art History Course. As a student with a secondary in history and a citation in Spanish, the Spanish Art History Course intersected two of my key interests. It covered art extending from the Caves of Altamira, the site that is considered the beginnings of all human art, to Picasso. The course only had a total of four students in it, so I was able to have a richer academic experience due to the intimate class setting.
Throughout the week, we had short excursions to important art sites so we could see in person the material we were studying. Once a week, we had a sevillana dance class where we learned the flamenco, a traditional Spanish dance. On the weekends, we had trips to different parts of Spain where we received a more complete view of the country's cultural, artistic and social diversity. Specifically, we hiked through the Picos de Europa and visited the holiest Spanish city, Santiago de Compostela. While in Leon, I also stayed with a host Mom, who immersed me into the Spanish culture through her hospitality and excellent cooking. I have come to love Spanish cuisine, especially Paella and Arroz con Leche! My roommate was Emma Ryan, a sophomore Alpine skier at Harvard. We spent our afternoons weight training in the gym and bonded with other students while enjoying tapas in the evenings. It was really special to be able to cultivate a friendship with an exceptional person such as Emma, further embedding myself in the Harvard Athletics community. Above all, I have learned that it is important to step out of your comfort zone into order to see growth – Traveling and living in a Spanish speaking country was not easy by any means and I am so grateful that I took a leap of faith in order to ultimately grow as a person. I will cherish the relationships and the memories that I have collected through this trip and reflect upon this time with joy and gratitude.