Noontime siesta would empty the busy streets of the towns near Madrid. Meat hung in the open air from windows in restaurants, and though some of the freshmen in the group from Mays were fluent Spanish speakers, they would have to laugh at the way the Spaniards phrased things.
A group of 15 freshmen business Regents Scholars, or first-generation college students, spent their spring break strolling through the famed Prado museum in Madrid and the aged, Aristotelian country castles of nobles and kings in Segovia and Toledo. Thanks to the generosity and support of Mays donors, these freshmen – many of whom haven’t been outside the southern U.S. and Mexico – had the chance to experience a culture a world away from their own back in Aggieland.
That culture was straight-forward, blunt, and proud of its heritage, said freshman Angel Escobar, a Mexico City native who attended high school in Laredo and is already active in community service projects in his first year at Mays. “In Mexico and the U.S., we’re still very similar. We don’t say things right out, we soften our words,” says Escobar, who hadn’t traveled north of Austin before spring break. “But they get right to the point in Spain. If they think you are doing something wrong, they will make a little noise and cut you off short.”
It marked the second year Mays has been able to send a select set of its 60 total freshmen Regents’ Scholars on an all-expenses paid trip overseas. The goal: To send the most passionate first-time students to see what the world has to offer. Students aren’t asked to be anything more than careful learners as they navigate the Madrid subway system and trail tour guides through century-old cathedrals in the heart of an ancient culture.
Understanding international cultures and observing international practices is key to understanding the business of the world, says Associate Dean Martha “Marty” Loudder.
And whether that’s when to leave a tip for service (it’s not expected in Spain) or how to phrase a business proposal, these students are already beginning to understand. “I had to remember not to use any English words like we do in Mexico,” Escobar said. “And I had to think of their customer service differently: One waitress made us write down our order because she was too busy to take it down for us.”