Rising 4th year nursing student Clara Keeley had planned to travel to Spain during the summer of 2020, but postponed the journey until last July when she spent a month in Valencia. A Spanish minor who grew up in a family of nurses, the Daleville, Va., native explored cities, beaches, and history on foot, by train, plane, and car, practicing her Spanish along the way.
What thoughts do you have about studying abroad during a pandemic?
[Even though] here were many protocols and procedures before and during the trip I had to adhere to . . . I was [still] really excited this summer when they allowed study abroad to happen. Most places in Spain are open and people are out and about on the street, masks are just required everywhere because less of their population is vaccinated. For me, it wasn’t a big deal to wear my mask and follow the protocols if it meant I could still have a fairly normal study abroad experience. While studying abroad during a pandemic isn’t 100% ideal, it was still a very enriching experience.
"This summer was really meant for me to focus on my Spanish and set nursing aside for a while, given that that is what I study all year long. But one of the reasons I chose to minor in Spanish is because I think it will enrich my ability to be a better and more versatile nurse."Clara Keeley, BSN Class of 2022, who studied in Valencia, Spain, in July 2021
When I got to UVA, and decided to minor in Spanish, I was drawn to the Valencia program [because it would] help me complete my Spanish minor. It is pretty difficult to fit in my Spanish classes to work with my nursing schedule, so it was really helpful to be able to go abroad during the summer and focus on Spanish alone. I also thought it would be very interesting to not only visit Spain, but to live in the culture and really get a feel for the language I am learning through traveling around the country and meeting different people.
What did you do and see?
I got the chance to not only see a lot of Valencia but also many other places in Spain, too. In addition to going to classes at UVA in Valencia and studying, I took day trips to Peñíscola, to Calpe, to Albufera Park Lake, to the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias. My friends and I even went running in the dried-up riverbed in Valencia that they turned into a huge park.
On one weekend trip, I traveled to Madrid by train, and saw Buen Retiro park, the royal palace, and the Gran Via. On another, I went to Mallorca (one of the Balearic Islands) by plane. That was probably my favorite place because I love the beach, went on a beautiful all-day Catamaran boat ride, relaxed by the pool, toured the city, and visited the cathedral.
While there, I took Spanish Culture and Civilization, so it was really cool to be able to travel around and see the things I was learning about in class. I even did a presentation about Madrid the weekend after I was there and was able to talk about it from experience. It was helpful for me to be immersed in Spanish culture and forced to only speak Spanish and only take Spanish classes to help me improve my listening and speaking abilities.
Are you changed by the experience, do you think?
I think the biggest thing I learned from this trip to Spain was that I still have A LOT to learn. While I am almost finished with my Spanish minor, I am nowhere close to being fluent. This trip helped me to realize that learning a new language takes a lot of practice and hard work and that it is something I will have to continue to practice and learn even after I complete my minor.
How will study abroad enrich your nursing, do you think?
For me, this summer was really meant to focus on my Spanish and set nursing aside for a while, given that that is what I study all year long. But one of the reasons I chose to minor in Spanish is because I think it will enrich my ability to be a better and more versatile nurse. The other class I took—Spanish for Medical Professionals—was really helpful in that I got to learn a lot of basic vocabulary about medicine. I think having practiced speaking Spanish in Spain, paired with the medical vocabulary I have learned, will help me to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients in the hospital.