My Cultural Environment and New Communities

During my time studying and volunteering in Valencia, Spain, I became part of two communities that are separate, but still coexist in proximity. The first community that I belonged to was the community of Florida State University study abroad students that I lived and studied with in Valencia. This community was very tight knit and in some ways was separate from the outside, wider Valencian community. The FSU students live together, eat together, go out together, and take classes together. When walking from my apartment building to class or to the supermarket, I would always pass by several people that I knew were FSU students. Mostly, the FSU students in Valencia stay within a 15-to-20-minute walk from the FSU study center. This compactness created a community bubble that FSU study abroad students exist in. Living in this community shaped my perception of what a community is because it was very inclusive and evident that my community was separate from the wider community. I was surprised how easy it was to spot FSU students amongst native Valencians, and this was my first time living within a community that had such defined and visible boundaries from other communities. I also was able to experience the native Valencian community through my volunteering at the local school. This experience shaped my concept of community because of how welcoming the Valencians were to me. I was surprised by how fascinated I was by the people I interacted with, and how interested they were to talk to me about living in the United States as well. Within the school community, I noticed that there were common elements to what I was familiar with growing up, indicating a continuity in communities across the world. For example, just like when I was in middle school in the United States, at Colegio Sagrado Corazón I saw the quiet kids, the talkative troublemakers, and even the nerdy math students. Experiencing a familiar environment reminded me of home.  

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