This past summer I attended my second Study Abroad experience in Valencia, Spain as I completed a B.A. in Spanish. Every Study Abroad experience is special but I knew that connecting with the local people and immersing myself completely in the language and culture would help to make this trip a truly meaningful experience! Before even arriving in Spain I researched clubs and organizations on-line that would allow me to pursue my personal interests while I was in Valencia.
One of the important connections I made was with Velo Club Valenciano, a group of recreational bikers that meet each Sunday to tackle various routes through the countryside and often into the mountains. Each weekend I was able to go out with a wonderful, friendly group to see some of the most beautiful vistas in the region and get a good workout at the same time! Our trips always included a break midway at a restaurant or bar for a bocadillo and more often than not, a traditional cremaet. In the last week of my trip I rode with the club and nearly 800 other cyclists in a ride to raise money for AVAPACE, a Valencian charity to benefit cerebral palsy.
In my second week in Valencia, as I returned from one of my bike rides, I happened across a group of musicians in traditional dress and made the most important connection of my trip. The group, called Valcaina, had just finished playing at an outdoor concert on the traditional instruments of Catalonia: the tabal (drum) and dolcaina (an ancient double reed flute). I stopped to talk with them and was invited to visit one of their rehearsals. I was immediately taken by the dolciana and asked if they would teach me. Soon I was spending every Tuesday and Thursday evening at the group’s space rehearsal space talking, rehearsing, and learning to play dolcaina; I was even able to perform with them in two outdoor concerts. From the members of Valcaina learned a lot about the traditional neighborhood associations that prepare for Las Fallas and what it means to be Valenciano.
By the time my Study Abroad came to end, I had truly begun to feel at home in Valencia and was so sad to leave my new friends. I had learned so much in those short 8 weeks and I will carry the memories with me forever.