Mary D’Orvilliers

Study Away

My name is Mary D’Orvilliers, and I am a secondary education and Spanish double major who has the absolute pleasure of studying abroad in Alicante, Spain this semester.

The simple action of coming to Spain and leaving behind my family, friends and boyfriend was not easy, but I know that this is an incredibly special opportunity for me to engage with the Spanish language, culture and people.

I have been here for less than a month, but I have already been exposed to so many new elements of life, elements that have exposed me to so many opportunities.

I am extremely fortunate to be living on the street adjacent to the beach and the Mediterranean Sea with a wonderful single host mother.

Contributed photo by Mary D’Orvilliers

Contributed photo by Mary D’Orvilliers

She doesn’t speak any English, so at first, it was difficult to communicate with the absence of words that I had forgotten or never learned, but she is very sweet and her kindness has created an atmosphere where I feel at ease, even if I make a mistake.

My language and communication skills have already improved tremendously, which has given me a newfound level of confidence in my ability to communicate.

I am no longer constantly translating sentences in my head before I speak; I now have a sense of poise and composure that comes from my determination to perfect my oral skills.

Leaving the states was difficult for me because I am a Zumba instructor; without a visa, I knew I wouldn’t be able to teach in Spain.

However, I found a gym that offers many different types of classes (Zumba included), so I bought a membership.

From the beginning, I introduced myself as a Zumba instructor from the states and offered my services to the gym.

Although I cannot teach my own class without a visa, the Zumba instructor lets me demonstrate some of my routines during his classes.

At first, the class was a little hesitant to try another instructor’s routines (because my style is very different from the current instructor’s and the class has all of his routines memorized), but from my second week in class, I began to introduce some songs from my routine.

This proved to be a challenge because I had no idea how to cue my routine in Spanish, but I took a deep breath, smiled wide and taught my routine with non-verbal cues.

The class went wild. With being here almost a month, the class is beginning to memorize portions of my routines as well.

As my time in Spain lengthens, I will continue to introduce more songs.

Contributed photo by Mary D’Orvilliers

Contributed photo by Mary D’Orvilliers

The instructor even said that I might be able to teach an entire class of my routines before I leave.

Spain has provided me with so much more, in addition to this new newfound sense of confidence, so I knew that I wanted to give back to the community in some way.

Teaching Zumba was a step in the right direction, however, I knew that I wanted to do more. I applied to become a tutor for children who want to learn how to speak English.

Once a week, I meet with children who are very dedicated and passionate about their studies.

I meet with two boys, Sergio (11), Marc (6) and a girl named Maria (11).

This is a great opportunity because I learn from them as much as they learn from me.

Also, I am able to use my education major while abroad. I create mini lesson plans weekly.

For example, last week, I taught Sergio all about adjectives and nouns through the written word and the story “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.

He read the story aloud to his brother, Marc, who followed along with a coloring page.

This experience is heartwarming because I can see the effect that I am having on these children already and I can’t wait to see how much they develop over these next four months.

I know that this is a once in a lifetime experience and I can’t wait to continue on with my exposure to this phenomenal culture and lifestyle.

My mantra is: entienda más, viaja más, sonrie más, y disfruta la vida más (Learn more; travel more; smile more; and enjoy life more.) See you next fall, Keene State!

Mary D’Orvilliers can be contacted at

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