Live Your Story Overseas
Diario de León - León, Spain - July 27, 2019
From New York to León With Croquettes Included
By Lorena Peña
The Language Center of the University of León opened its doors once again to a group of 12 students of Molloy College (New York, United States). These students will return to their city this Saturday after a month's stay in our city, where they immersed themselves in its life and culture.
Every summer, a group of students (anywhere between 12 to 24) from Molloy College comes to a home in León to learn about the Spanish way of life with a Spanish family.
This Spanish Language and Culture Program is organized by the Department of Languages and Cultures and the Office of International Education at Molloy College together with the University of León, specifically through the Language Center of this capital city. This Program was launched in 1994 and since then about 3,500 New York students have already passed through this city. This year most of the students belong to the field of health sciences although there are also some students from the branch of social work, philosophy, business and education.
"This program was started 25 years ago thanks to James Fonseca, a professor in the department of Languages and Cultures at Molloy College" explains Susana Rubio, the Director of this Program and the Department of Languages and Cultures at Molloy College. "He was the son of Spanish immigrants from Asturias. During his childhood he spent every summer in the mountains of Asturias and León, which he loved and never forgot. He always dreamt with the idea of bringing his students to this part of the world and he finally was able to do it the summer of 1994. The goal was for these young students to improve their Spanish communication skills and to experience the Spanish culture for themselves in a small city with a good university and where there were not be many other American students. This was how the relationship between the two institutions began".
The students are accompanied by professors from the Department of Languages and Cultures and complete 80 credit hours in the Language Center for a month. "In the courses here students learn Spanish language and not only Spanish culture with a capital C, literature, history, but also the cultural aspects of the day by day lifestyle of the Spanish people," she says. "As well, since we want our students to practice Spanish as much as possible, they live with a host a family with whom they also learn about the customs, traditions, politics, gastronomy and Castilian colloquial expressions. The families here in León are wonderful, they treat our students as if there were part of their own family. They even take them to their "pueblo" (hometown) to meet their extended family. Often times, strong bonds are forged between the students and the host family. Relationships endure over time and they visit each other at both sides of the Atlantic", explains Susana Rubio.
Given the fact that Molloy College has a big and prestigious Barbara H. Hagan School of Nursing and Health Sciences, many of the students who participate in this Program are Nursing students. This is why the program includes a visit to the University Hospital of León, where the Director of the Nursing Department and the Director of Hospital Training lead the students through a thorough tour of the most important units in the hospital.
Daniela Saravia, Jack Porter, Olivia Sturiano, Laura Marrandino, Noelle O'neil, Lauren Habacker and Jessica Mauro are seven of the twelve young participants who came to León this July. For them, León is a small and beautiful city, ideal for this kind of program since, as the they say, "it is a very calm, safe city unlike the big cities like Madrid or Barcelona."
They explain that a normal day for them in León means going to class in the morning to study Spanish grammar and culture, besides being introduced to the customs and traditions of León.
In their leisure time they love going to the bar La Noria, located in the "Barrio Húmedo" a popular neighborhood in the city center. The group cheers in unison that their favorite person is the head of this establishment: "t is our favorite place in León. The owner is very hospitable, he already knows us!", and Jack Porter adds "La Noria's croquettes are delicious".
Something that amazed these New Yorkers was "the slow pace of life of the Spaniards and their carefree air." "The environment, the atmosphere, is very different from New York," they conclude. They claim that the Big Apple is "very loud" and that their lifestyle in the USA is frantic and "fast."
On the contrary, they say that here they can "go for a leisurely walk and enjoy the city" and all its corners. "It is very nice to be able to contemplate the city, in New York that is not possible. I love Spanish life," says Daniela Saravia.
Her friend, Jack Porter, adds that "in New York there is always something to do. When we are there it is very easy to feel guilty when you are not working or studying. If you are sitting in the armchair, you get the feeling that you are not doing anything". All the students share their fascination with the siesta and tapas.
Lauren Habacker was one of the lucky ones who enjoyed a weekend in the "pueblo" with her host family. It was a "very small and beautiful" place where she attended the birthday celebration of her "Spanish mother's" sister. She says it was "really fun".