Madrid: The experience of a lifetime

Miranda L. Pennock 11/11/08More articles
Ashley Chapman wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, so when she got to college in Albany she went in as “undecided.”
Then in her sophomore year at the University at Albany, things changed for the Skaneateles native.
“I understood Spanish pretty well, it was easy for me to pick up, and I like the idea of being a teacher, so I declared myself that year as a Spanish language major and education minor,” Ashley said.
In order to be fluent in the language, or at the very least speak it better, she wanted to put herself in a situation where she would have to use Spanish nearly all the time. And that’s how she ended up in Spain this fall as a student at Instituto Internacional in Madrid.
Being in the midst of a culture that pervades most things that a person does while in Spain, Ashley, 21, has been soaking up the sights and learning as she goes. She’s currently staying with a host family, which puts her right in the thick of Spanish living.
“I am loving Spain. I’m a big family person, though, so being away from them is starting to get hard, but in November I’m traveling a lot and I know it’s going to be amazing and then when I’m done with that I am coming home,” she said.
When in Albany, Ashley talks to her family every day. Without a telephone in Spain, she and her dad, Terry, and her three siblings have resorted to using Skype — a free telephone service used through the Internet — to talk once a week on Sundays. Throughout the week they must rely on email to keep in touch.
“It’s been hard for them, too. My sister was almost in tears when she said bye to me,” she said. “I talk to my family almost every day on the phone, so not being able to talk them has been hard on all of us.”
The family is extremely close, which Terry attributes to his and the kid’s mother taking the time to teach all four of them the value of family. He also believes that what has brought the siblings even closer has been the death of their mother.
For Terry, it’s been especially difficult to have Ashley so far away right now.
“As far as the distance it's been hard for me because she is so far away and with so much unrest in the world I worry about it all the time. But she seems to be safe and enjoying herself,” Terry said.
Enjoyment and the opportunity of a lifetime haven’t come cheaply. Ashley had to take out loans to help pay for school and her semester abroad. However, she did receive a $2,000 scholarship, which has helped her financially.
“It was difficult but we figured out a system and it has been working fine,” she said. “I’m just going to have a lot of loans to pay back after I graduate.”
As her time in Madrid comes to a close, Ashley is looking forward to certain things back home — her family, friends and the food, particularly Mark’s Pizzeria food.
“We tease her about Mark’s pizza, how their sales have gone down since she's been gone,” Terry said. “She's sad she's going to miss Thanksgiving Dinner. (Ashley) wants to have Thanksgiving dinner on her birthday, which is in January.”
After a semester apart, Terry plans to shower his daughter with all the love he hasn’t been able to show her since she flew out on Sept. 11.
“When I see her for the first time, she will get a big hug and a kiss and will tell her I love her followed by me crying like a little kid,” he said. “Then I will give her money so she can go to Marks for her pizza.”
Ashley will be in the sky on her way home on Dec. 20, just in time for the holidays.

Skaneateles native Ashley Chapman in spending the semester abroad. Here she stands among Spanish ruins while on one of her many adventures in the foreign land.

CATEGORY: General Education
TAGS: Spain, travel, study abroad
EDITION: Skaneateles Press

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