STUDENT BLOG: Study abroad experience is more than just ‘seeing’ sights

This is a weekly installment in a series of blog posts submitted by a team of Centre College students studying away or abroad throughout the spring semester. Learn more about Centre’s nation-leading study abroad program, a guarantee of the Centre Commitment

A Spanish major at Centre College, Ben Bennett ’20 says he chose to study in Segovia for the spring semester to practice his Spanish speaking by “living life, making new friends and exploring new places in Spain.” On campus, Bennett is a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and the assistant to the regional manager of the Centre baseball team. After graduation, he says he hopes to pursue a career in the communications or advertising fields in hopes that his creative abilities can help someone else promote the things they are passionate about.

I began writing this blog on April 6, 2019. That was two months and five days since I arrived in the historic Spanish city of Segovia. Nearing the finish line of our journey, my fellow study abroad-ers and I are looking back on the experiences we’ve had, rather than forward to those ahead. For me, the sensation is similar to that of leaving the passenger seat of a race car after a NASCAR race and immediately jumping into a hot tub, on the beach, under the stars, as Kenny G plays softly on a catamaran near the horizon.

Ben Bennett ’20 finds his 'comfort zone' in Segovia

In this metaphorical hot tub, I begin to realize the sheer number of major things that have happened over these two and a half short months. Surprisingly, what stands out to me aren’t the things I’ve seen but the things I’ve noticed. Before this trip, the difference between those two words was insignificant. I’ve learned in Spain, however, that while there is value in seeing new things, it’s the things you notice that change you.

Upon my arrival to Segovia, I began noticing small and insignificant things I never would notice in the monotony of my life at home. When I became aware of this newfound hypersensitivity, like I do with my dreams (I will spare you those), I began to write down what I noticed in my new Spanish home.

Below are some of my personal observations I have written down over the course of the semester, unfiltered and un-spellchecked, for authenticity’s sake:

  • Fam has hectic and loud (stressful) dinner at a coffee shop with kids, then gets waiter to take a picture afterward.

An allegory for parenting I would assume.

  • Street performers finish songs not without audience, but without applause.

If one of you readers turns this into a folk song, I want royalties.

Ben Bennett ’20 finds his 'comfort zone' in Segovia

  • Guy stops me and asks me where I’m from—in English—because, I’m wearing shorts.

I don’t know for certain it was because I was wearing shorts, but that is the least hurtful option.

  • Man posing with statue but no one taking his picture.

Taking the concept of a “mental image” to the next level.

  • Blog idea: how much

I’m not sure where I was going with this one, but obviously it didn’t turn into a blog idea.

  • Spanish man’s shirt that says “Find the true vibes everywhere.”

A very rough translation I’m sure, but if there are in fact true vibes out there, I will find them.

  • Rich people don’t play the lottery.

Simple and not specific to Spain, but something to think about.

  • Not even the street cats look at you passing on the street.

In Spain, the custom is to not smile at a passerby on the street (something I have still yet to master), and the cats have taken to this custom as well.

I wish I could include all of the minute observations I’ve made and recorded this semester, because more than the pictures I post on Instagram, more than the stories I will tell when I finally get home, more than the complete emptiness that is my checking account, these are the things that describe the experience I have had away from home.

Ben Bennett ’20 finds his 'comfort zone' in Segovia

More so than seeing Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower, the conversations between friends that took place on the overlook. More than seeing the Segovian cathedral every day on the way to class, noticing a dog in the middle of the street faithfully still, waiting for his owner to return. More than seeing the 2,000-year-old aqueduct on the way home from the gym, noticing a group of students returning to Segovia from a semester abroad, watching them get off the bus and embrace their families and thinking about how different the concept of “home” is to them and me.

While the race is exciting, fast paced and full of things unexpected, it is not the trophy ceremony that NASCAR drivers remember when they look back on their championship run. It is the blink-of-an-eye moments—every small decision, every minute detail—that resulted in a winning race. Those small things might not be great topics for the post-race interview, but those are the memories that will last.

My time abroad has been so much more than just “seeing.” With every passing day and the smallest of observations, I’m changing the way I think about people, the world and myself. On May 1, when I touch down in the Lexington airport, more than the wonders of the world that I have seen, I will be grateful for the capacity my time abroad has given me to wonder rather than drift, to consider rather than think and, most importantly, notice rather than see.

by Ben Bennett ’20
April 18, 2019

By |2019-04-18T12:40:34+00:00April 18th, 2019|Academics, Careers, News, Spanish, Study Abroad|