Viva España

Hello friends!

My name is Suzanna Carnevali-Doan and I’m a Sociology and Spanish double-major. I’ve officially started my journey in Madrid and couldn’t be happier with the way things are turning out.  Of course, there have been a  few challenges thus far (as expected) but I’m excited to continue this incredible experience.

My trip was long and tiring but well worth it. I believe everyone needs to travel throughout their lifetime because there is so much more out there than just what you experience within the comforts of your own home. Travelling has the ability to widen one’s perspective in the  sense that you become aware of other cultures around the world and  you understand that not everyone in the same. I’ve found  it incredible to experience the different lifestyles and customs of individuals around the world because  not only do you learn about their way of life but you also learn a lot about yourself and your own culture. The most influential reason as to why travel is such an important part in my life is because I have an international family. My Mother is from the United States and  my father is from Spain. This has influenced my passion for travel but I believe that embarking on these journeys around the world are open to any and  everyone and should be strongly encouraged. In terms  of international travel, I’ve visited Spain about 5 times (tickets are expensive people!!!). Within Spain I’ve been to Madrid, Cadiz, Seville and Valencia (I think that’s it). During one of my trips to Spain I also briefly (by briefly I mean literally one or two days) traveled to Portugal but I definitely wished I had stayed longer. I also went to Prague this past winter and  it was incredibly breathtaking and I would recommend it to anyone. As one can see, my travel experience is a bit limited to Europe but I have plans to travel to Central and South America in the near future!

Okay, so now I’m in Madrid. Although I’ve been here before, I’ve never gone by myself and have never stayed with someone who wasn’t a family member. I’m currently staying with the most wonderful woman ( named Asuncion or “Asun” for short), who truly wants me to have the experience of a lifetime. She has asked me several times throughout every meal if I like the food even after I answer that It’s probably the best food I’ve ever had. She has allowed me to eat with her family, has lent me an umbrella and several Spanish books to read, has shared her own travel experiences with me (her favorite trip being Mexico), and has overall been very welcoming and  kind to me. In addition to providing me with more than what I need, Asun and I also laugh with each other and share very similar sociopolitical ideologies. I’m looking forward to building this relationship and being able to call one more person family.

A typical Spanish breakfast

Before going on this trip we were “warned” that Spaniards are very direct people and aren’t afraid to tell it like it is/ don’t have much of a filter. That being said, most of these comments are  harmless  and only recognized  as  inappropriate by foreigners. I’ve had a few comments about my weight, have been told several times that my “Spanish is surprisingly very good” and have been asked why I wasn’t talking or contributing to a conversation in a group setting. I’ve also gotten lot’s of surprised looks and  responses  when telling people that I am unsure of what I want to do after college.  These are very mild examples of the direct nature of Spaniards but I’ve definitely noticed that what Americans keep silent, Spaniards usually say out loud. The different time zones are also definitely going to take some getting used to. Breakfast is usually eaten at around 11:00 am. The typical breakfast (and what I usually have now) is a piece of toast and coffee. Lunch is anywhere between 3-4 pm. By then, I’m usually starving and  trying to cover up the  fact that my stomach has been growling non-stop. Dinner is then anywhere between 9-11 pm. This means that I usually go to bed a lot later as well. The food that I’ve had to far has been incredible (tortilla, chorizo, chicken, gazpacho, ham, paella etc.) but these meal times are still throwing me off.

The company that I’m interning at is called  “Centro de Acogida a Refugiados- CAR” which translates to Centers of Welcome to Refugees. This organization provides housing and other resources to refugees entering Spain. The objective of CAR is to integrate these individuals into Spanish society as best they can. Unfortunately, there is a waiting list of about 400 people who wish to get assigned housing  in the center. This expresses the large demand for this type of service and the lack of centers similar to CAR that are in Spain. That being said, once individuals are accepted into CAR, the support and  assistance begins immediately. This organization is definitely helping facilitate awareness in Spain towards the living situation of Refugees. The staff at CAR works as best they can to provide  accommodation for these individuals and treat them as human, because after all, refugees are human.

My duties include but are not limited to, sitting in on interviews (and eventually conducting one of my own), processing resident paperwork, assisting residents in obtaining health care and legal representation, and simply socializing with residents. My duties vary from day to day so It’s always a surprise as to what I’m going to be working on. In order to be a part of the CAR team, one has to truly care about the well-being of these individuals, have good work ethic, excellent communication skills, be familiar with several computer programs (such as excel) and  be organized. Unlike law or marketing firms, CAR has a more relaxed style. For one, I don’t have to come into work every day wearing a suit. Additionally, creative ideas are welcomed in terms of new activities that could  be brought into CAR and insight on overcrowding.

I’m incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with such an amazing company. Assistance allocated towards refugees and immigrants is definitely a relatively new business sector in Spanish society but CAR as given me, and  many other hope that this conversation and work will continue.

I’m looking forward to meeting new people, facing new challenges and enjoying myself 🙂

Hasta luego!

Suzanna Carnevali-Doan

Spanish and Sociology Double-Major