Community in Toledo

Paige Peltzer, '12, immersed herself in the local culture and discovered what community stands for in Toledo, Spain.

Community in Toledo: through sport and spook

By: Paige Peltzer, '12

This fall I studied in Toledo, Spain. Toledo is a smaller city that is located a half hour train ride from Spain's capital, Madrid. I lived with a host family in the center of the historic part of town, or the “casco historico”. For little over two months I saw some great places in Spain, studied Spanish, and practiced the language in my daily involvement with those around me.

If living in a new country with a host family wasn't enough, the fundacion provided many opportunities to participate in extracurricular or volunteer activities in Toledo. I had so much fun playing volleyball in the fundacion's gym on Monday nights. Other times I played soccer and basketball, and I took salsa lessons during lunch break on Wednesdays. All of these activities allowed me to better know the other students studying at the fundacion. The salsa classes were taught by a fellow student from Puerto Rico.

One day Yuki, one of the amazing student directors at the fundacion, asked me if I'd like to visit a local elementary school to speak to them about Halloween and how it is celebrated in the US. I agreed, not knowing what to expect, and went on to spend a great morning with the kids, talking about Halloween, singing Halloween songs, doing holiday activities, and of course eating candy. The school even played Michael Jackson's “Thriller” over the intercom between classes! I really enjoyed myself.

Fortunately this day prompted Yuki to involve me in an opportunity to do story-telling at a local library with four other students from the fundacion. We got together to practice a few times, whipped up some costumes, and presented to a room full of excited children “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, and “The Three Little Pigs”. The purpose was to spark an interest in the English language in the children of Toledo. While Yuki read the plays aloud in Spanish, myself and the other students acted them out in English. We also sang a couple of songs with the kids like “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, which they loved. They were out of their seats, singing, dancing, and giggling.

My personal examples are just two of the many opportunities there are to get involved with the local community. Laughing with the kids, and speaking to them in our developing English/Spanish was the best part of these two days. I think it can be easy to be a student studying abroad and remain excluded from the native people of the place in which one is visiting. However, the fundacion of Toledo did a good job opening the door to places and events that closed the gap between the us and the community, so that we could better integrate ourselves into a new culture. I found that I loved being a part of the Spanish lifestyle, and already look fondly back on the time I spent in Toledo.