By: Jennifer Ortiz
Gardner-Webb welcomes Ms. Ana de Barbaño Lucas Honorato, one of this year’s Spanish language teaching assistants. Honorato comes from the province of Badajo in Extremadura, the southwest region of Spain bordering Portugal.
Ana acquired her undergraduate degree in English Literature and Linguistics from the University of Salamanca, and then completed two masters degrees—one from the University of Granada in teaching English for secondary education, and another from the University of Salamanca in intercultural communications.
This is not Honorato’s first time working as a teaching assistant, TA; she served as a TA at the University of New Orleans about four years ago. She said, however, that she wanted to better understand the American culture, specifically that of the south—something she felt she was not fully able to do in such a touristic area of the United States.
“When I was in New Orleans, everybody would say, ‘You didn’t come to a common place. Your experience in the United States is not real.”
Ms. Honorato said that she was not expecting to be back in the United States, and that she was really sad to leave four years ago. She described her long application process to the Fulbright Scholarship Program as her last shot at trying to return to the United States. She doubted she would be chosen for the program.
“I was thinking, this is the last thing I’m applying for, but I knew I wouldn’t get it. One day I got an email, and I’m here in the south. It means a lot to me, and I’m just very happy to be here. I wanted to learn more about the south. They’re more about the American culture, especially since this is part of the Bible belt,” she said.
Through her many experiences in both Spanish and American universities, she has had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world—even some from various parts of the United States. Honorato explained how this has helped her keep an open mind despite lingering stereotypes people may have of the United States.
“In Spain, it is true that there is this common knowledge about how the North American people are focused on their culture and their country and not thinking too much of the rest of the world. This is a stereotype in Spain,” Honorato expounded. “Sometimes we think not very nice things about America. We all have [stereotypes] of others, but sometimes it’s good to stop and think, ‘This does not work or fit for everyone or every country”
Having lived in Boiling Springs for a month so far, Honorato has learned a lot about the American way of life and what makes them different from Spaniards. She said that she really admires the punctuality of her students since punctuality is not something that Spaniards take very seriously.
She also explained that one thing that shocked her about young Americans is their hardworking nature. “You have jobs from 16 years old, and you become very independent. In Spain, it’s not like that,” explained Honorato. “I see that you’re very efficient here, managing from a very early age, your time and your money. This is a cultural shock for sure.”
Honorato compared and contrasted the American and the Spanish family dynamics by telling about how young people are not expected to leave the house at the age of 18. They may choose to relocate temporarily to a different city for the purposes of higher education, but it is normal for young people to live at home even after obtaining their university degree.
Honorato talked about how she likes the fact that people in this part of the world tune in to religion and faith even at a very young age. In Spain, religion is often rejected by young people because it’s part of the tradition, and young people usually want to step aside from tradition and rebel. For many, religion has negative connotations.
“Because culture is so complicated—sometimes the smallest thing is cultural—you can have many misunderstandings. Then you see that it just works differently. I think this is amazing that there are many differences, but in the end we’re all the same. We’re people.”
As anyone in an unfamiliar place, Honorato says she misses her friends and family. She misses some specific parts of her routine in Spain, such as her walks on the street and weekend hikes in the mountains with friends. Despite the bit of nostalgia she feels, she says that it’s the wonderful people she surrounds herself with who keeps her from missing home.
Even though this has been a learning experience for her, Honorato has so much to offer to her students. She encourages students to open up to other cultures and learn about them. For example, she tries to get her students used to listening to music in a language other than English; something she says is very common in Spain but does not see around here.
“I would like them to understand that learning from a different culture can bring changes in your life. You will feel happier understanding other people’s needs and not criticizing people from their image or their way of thinking,” said Honorato.
Honorato wants them to realize that the world is big and that there are differences and barriers, but they do not change the basic human needs and desires.