Vanderbilt swimming junior Hannah Hunt recently returned from participating in a Maymester in Spain. We caught up with Hannah to reflect on her experience.
How and why did you decide to get involved with a Maymester at Vanderbilt?
When I applied for last year’s Soles4Soles trip, I had the option to do a Maymester or summer class and I had never entertained the idea until I saw that it was offered through Vanderbilt Athletics. My trip to Spain served as an extension of my Spanish minor. My literature professor, Dr. Pintane-Paz, had started a Maymester program, and she was always talking about how much fun it was and the groups that went. That inspired me to pursue this opportunity.
What is your major at Vanderbilt, and what career path do you plan to pursue after college?
My major is Medicine, Health and Society. The concentration is health science because I am also pre-nursing. Vanderbilt does not have an undergrad nursing program but it has certain prerequisites that count towards its graduate program. I also am working on getting my minor in Spanish. I’ve always been very interested in Spanish and really want to use Spanish later in my career. I want to be a nurse practitioner and I also want to use Spanish in my day to day job so that I can to communicate with people in the health care system that are Spanish-speaking.
How does your Maymester experience help prepare you for future career opportunities?
Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of Spanish in general. My Spanish learning would stop once I left the classroom and my parents didn’t speak Spanish so I was never exposed to the language outside of the classroom. Going to the Maymester I became really immersed in the language and the culture. It forces you to be comfortable with the language and use it. I hope to apply that experience to my future career as a nurse.
What was your favorite experience during your time in Spain?
I think one of my favorite experiences was the backpacking trip. There was one day in the middle of the month that was the hardest course — it was up a mountain called OCebreiro was and it was super steep. I was like “Oh I’m an athlete, so I can do it.” I was the only student-athlete on the trip so everyone thought I would have no problem getting up the mountain. It was very humbling because it was difficult, but we all got together as a group and bonded through that tough experience. It was similar to how the swim team bonds through a difficult practice. I definitely made a lot of friendships along the way, though.
What drew you to want to backpack across the El Camino trail?
The description of the trail sounded really interesting and I wanted a nontraditional experience in Spain. A lot of people go to study in beach areas and Barcelona but I wanted to do something more cultural and more historical so the El Camino was the perfect option. I also wanted to see a lot more of the country in general. We had the opportunity to stay in a different city each night for the entire month, so I really got to see a lot of different places and areas of Spain. Having this experience allowed me to gain a lot more knowledge of the country.
What did you learn about the culture during your time on the El Camino trail?
Culturally, it was very interesting. In general, they do a lot of things differently than America. For example, they eat later in the day and they are very hospitable and friendlier. Also, their culture is a lot richer and deeper because they have buildings still standing from the 10th century, so it was really cool to see the history of the country and get to experience and learn about it.
Did you try any new foods while abroad? Any favorites?
In every Spanish class everybody learns about tortilla española in Spain. It’s eggs, onions and sometimes peppers and is served cold. At first, I was very hesitant about it but I tried it and ended up having it every single day I was abroad. I loved it. I couldn’t get enough.
This isn’t your first international trip with Vanderbilt, as you ventured on a service trip to Morocco with Soles4Souls in 2018. What do you most remember about your adventure to Morocco?
For the Soles4Soles trip to Morocco, the part I remember most was on the last day we stayed in the Sahara Desert overnight and we all got together to share what we had taken away from all of the different distribution days we had participated in. It was so cool to see everybody be so honest and open with each other and hearing what everybody else had learned from the trip. I realized my love for service and that I wanted to continue that here in Nashville. Even though we traveled to Morocco, it is not hard to find areas of need in my local community back home.
Student-athletes at other schools don’t always get the opportunity to study aboard. How valuable of an experience has this been for you at Vanderbilt?
Both the Soles4Soles trip to Morocco and the Maymester to Spain helped me step out of my comfort zone. It’s helped me be able to work and travel in a group and definitely keep an open mind while traveling. Overall, I think the biggest part is keeping an open mind and just going with the flow of things.
What was your biggest takeaway from your trip?
Take time to reflect on interpersonal relationships and the future. We had hours and hours on end while we were walking each day to think about our past and what brought us there as well as plan for our futures, which is something I have continued to do upon coming home. As a student-athlete you always have so many commitments and are always running around trying to get things done. You rarely take the time out of your day to take a step back and think about what you’ve done, what you want to do and what you want to achieve. After this trip, I learned the value of making sure to do that.