Culture Seeker Abroad

by Leesa Truesdell

I would like to start by saying what a joy it has been getting to know Samantha LoDuca. Sam and I met last August and whenever I asked her to assist in a project, she was always more than willing to help. The year flew by faster than I thought possible. It seems like only yesterday that we were practicing the art of conjugating Spanish verbs in every past tense imaginable. Sam’s goal this year was to immerse herself in culture. Not only has she accomplished what she set out to do, but she has helped others in the process of becoming a culture seeker. In her last blog post, Teaching Private Lessons and Setting Goals, she talked to me about her future. It’s been a pleasure having Sam on the team this year. I look forward to seeing what she will be up to next.

Meet Sam, The Culture Seeker:

In your last post, we talked about your goal to reach out more often to Spanish locals. How are you doing with that?

“Reaching out to the locals? Meaning how to make Spanish friends? It’s going really well, I’m really excited for the summer. Although my American friends will be leaving which makes me very sad, I am planning some trips with my friends from Spain! I’ll be able to improve my Spanish hopefully (fingers crossed).

I didn’t really plan on doing a follow-up to my first article. My plan was to post more articles of advice in order to help people. I wrote it more from the perspective of, after a lot of months or experience here, this is what I’ve learned. In a way, this is more of a wrap up than a working series.”

Did you realize that other auxilars read your post and are going to take your advice on meeting locals?

spanish locals“No, to be honest, I really didn’t realize that others were reading what I was posting and taking it to heart! I’m glad it could help! Sometimes people just need that extra push and I’m thrilled if my article could be that for some people.”

You posted tips about how to meet locals in your blog posts. What have your experiences been?

“Really great! I’m continuing to make lots of new friends and I love it! Honestly, I really haven’t had any negative experiences. I find that I connect really well with a lot of people who live in Madrid whether they are American, Spanish, or International.”

Lets talk about your school experience: how have you been doing with learning more about the exams the kids take at school? What are your feelings now that school is ending?

“I’m a Trinity expert now! Just kidding, but really it’s been an interesting experience, to say the least. There wasn’t anyone at my school experienced in Trinity exam preparations. As auxiliars we had to take the reins and teach ourselves. Then we figured out how to prepare the students.”

Follow up: remind us again what the Trinity exam is and what age takes this exam?

“Trinity exams are exams that students across Spain take each year. This year the grade that took them was third grade. For this age level, it is a 7-10 minute conversational oral exam where the students have to have certain grammatical and conversational abilities.”

trinity exam

Will you be staying next year? How did you make your decision?

“Yes! I decided back in December. I was at an event and someone was talking about doing what you’re passionate about and how that alone makes you happy in life. Although I’m not sure if teaching is necessarily my life’s calling, this experience has made me unbelievably happy. I’ve learned more about myself and I’ve fallen in love with a culture. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to that yet.”

What will going home for the summer be like?

I’m going home for a month to visit family and friends and then will be coming back to Madrid to work the months of August and September before I start working as an auxiliar. I think home will be a reverse culture shock to say the least, but I’m very excited to see so many people I miss and care about!

If you could do one thing different this year, what would it be?

“This sounds strange but honestly nothing. I haven’t regretted or wanted to change a single minute of my time here. If I had to give an answer I’d say I’d watch my stuff more carefully. One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do here is getting a copy of my apartment key made, but even that I think was a really good experience that helped me in the end.”

Continuing To Be The Best

At the beginning, Sam and I sat across from each other during an intense series of Spanish classes. It was during the brutal Madrid summer heat of August, when we focused on a huge range of topics, from the intercambios, to our interview series catch-ups, and all the way to the day she joined our team for the 2016-2017 school year to contribute her own blogs. Sam has become not only a friend but a person I admire for her dedication to continuing to better herself.

Sam made goals for herself this year and each time I met up with her to check-in, she had not only surpassed those goals but she had gotten better and better at balancing her time. She will not have any problems finding balance when she gets back to the states because we know from her first interview that she can work more than 70+ hours a week. Based on her experience in Madrid, she knows what makes her feel most fulfilled as a culture seeker abroad.

Sam has certainly shared many inspiring lessons as a culture seeker with us and her first year abroad has been a journey of self-discovery through authentic cultural immersion. Go SAM! Keep going and please let us know how things are going in the future.