It is amazing to me the power that culture has on every aspect of one’s experience in a particular country. From the moment I stepped off of the plane in Barcelona, walked through the airport, drove through the city, met my host family, and toured my school, I was struck by the cultural aspects that would make my experience unique and complete. While the cultural differences between Spain and America are numerous, I will focus on the ones that have particularly impacted my experience teaching at RMSI.
First, the schedule that Spain runs on is far different from that of America. The school day both begins and ends later at RMSI than it does in Kentucky. The school day at my placement in Kentucky began at 7:40 and ended at 2:20, giving students a 15 minute lunch break in the middle of the day. This is a direct contrast from the students’ schedules at RMSI. Most students begin the day at 9 and end at 4:45 (with a few exceptions for students arriving early to take classes for their English certification in grades 11-12). Also, I had always heard of the siesta being a part of Spain’s culture but did not believe it was true until I came! Although the school where I am teaching does not call it a siesta, each student has one hour in the middle of the day to go home to rest or eat lunch before returning to school for the remainder of his or her classes. This difference in schedule, I believe, benefits the students in that they have plenty of time to rest and are not falling asleep in class as was an issue with many of my students in Kentucky.
The cultural difference in schedule continues for the rest of the day as I have found that not only do people not start their day until later but every meal is eaten later in the day. Lunch for us is at 2:30 and many people do not eat dinner until 9 or 10 at night. As a person who loves to stay up late and sleep in, this aspect of Spanish culture is one that I have fallen in love with.
The second major cultural difference that I have noticed relates to lifestyle. At RMSI, every student is given at least 30 minutes to play on the playground or the soccer field, to practice sports, or to just sit outside with friends. This time is provided for all students regardless of age and reflects the cultural difference in that the people here are far more active. They eat healthier, value exercise, and walk everywhere. I love that they give their students time in the school day to be outside and to engage in physical exercise, getting their energy and restlessness out before continuing class.
The final big cultural difference that I have noticed that has had an impact on the educational setting in which I am teaching is the discipline of the students. As mentioned in my previous blog, I have found that the students are extremely motivated at this school but have a tendency towards free-spirited chattiness. Many of the younger ones especially are not held to the same standard of behavior at home or in the classroom as American students are and, as a result, they are much more loud and crazy. This leads to classroom management and discipline approaches that are far different than those to which we are accustomed to in American school systems.
These are just a few of the cultural differences that I have noticed that have impacted the educational setting in which I am participating. Overall, I am not only fascinated by Spain’s culture but have realized just how much I love it. I had the opportunity to travel to Italy over this past weekend and although I had a wonderful trip, it was refreshing to return to a culture that I have not only grown to understand and adjust to, but have grown to love.