Opening up to Classroom Culture in Madrid

Benancio Rodriguez
June 27, 2019

Hi everyone! This blog is about the differences between classroom environments in the U.S. compared to Europe—specifically Madrid. To preface, it’s important to note that I only had two instructors while abroad. My experience during my six weeks may not be the most accurate representation of abroad classroom culture entirely, but it’s something I would like to share regardless! It’s important to note that the culture in Madrid is very liberal. Madrid is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly places in the world, and with that, people seem to be very comfortable with expressing their identities—LGBTQ and otherwise. I found that this sense of openness carried over to the classroom environment, as well. The biggest cultural difference that I noticed right away in the classroom was in my literature course. The literature course covered old Spanish literature, and the use of sex to convey a message was a common theme in the various works we talked about. In the course, the instructor had no qualms talking about his interpretation of what the authors were trying to convey with sex or asking us our personal opinions on the topics, as well. At first, most students in the course seemed taken back with how open our instructor was in talking about sex and asking personal opinions, but we slowly began to realize that the culture in Madrid is one of more open-minded and direct. The instructor didn’t view sex as a taboo topic that should only be talked about at a surface level—something slightly more different than the typical American culture. Similarly, the use of religion in this literature was used to help convey particular themes of the time period. And similar to the openness used to discuss sex, the instructor talked about religion very openly and asked personal questions in a way that isn’t the norm in America. In America, we find it to be an invasion of privacy to ask such direct and personal questions, but in Madrid, it seems to be the norm.

Overall, my biggest takeaway after being able to study in Madrid for six weeks was that the willingness to express various identities publicly also carries into the classroom. It isn’t uncommon to see PDA in public regardless of sexual orientation, and it didn’t seem to be uncommon of the instructor to ask personal questions that aren’t viewed as “acceptable” in America. However, I found this experience in the classroom to be one of my favorite experiences abroad. Madrid’s willingness to talk about topics that are traditionally off-limits in America made for interesting dialogue in the classroom. To make it even better, the instructor was very respectful of opposing opinions while staying strong to his own opinion. Having an environment where you can talk about traditionally taboo topics without judgement is an experience I’ll always remember in Madrid!

Benancio Rodriguez

<p>My favorite hobbies are running and wrestling. I started playing soccer when I was seven, but I gradually made my way to wrestling and running as I got older. I really enjoyed the team and the individual aspect of that these sports gave me that many other sports cannot.</p>

Program:
Destination:
Term:
2019 Summer 1, 2019 Summer 2
Home university:
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Hometown:
Grant, MI
Major:
Biological Chemistry
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