Student bounces around Spain in year-long adventure

By Elizabeth ValenzuelaStaff Writer – evalenzu@unca.edu

Photo courtesy of Andre Mileti UNCA junior Andre Mileti gazes at a mural in Valencia, Spain during his semester studying abroad.
Photo courtesy of Andre Mileti
UNCA junior Andre Mileti gazes at a mural in Valencia, Spain during his semester studying abroad.

Andre Mileti, a junior at UNC Asheville, takes full advantage of his year abroad, immersing himself in the Spanish culture and traveling to as many places as possible.

Instead of staying in the same location for his whole year abroad, Mileti chose to study in two different places, Murcia and Pamplona, Spain. During the fall semester, he studied in Murcia and moved to Pamplona in the spring.

Although Mileti is a Spanish student, he said the language still presented a barrier for him.

“I barreled through it, accepted it and moved on,” Mileti said.

Mileti experienced a mix of interesting professors at Universidad de Murcia last semester.

“I had a very intelligent and witty art history professor,” Mileti said. “But he liked to embarrass me frequently, at one point making the class shout, ‘Andre Mileti for president,’ repeatedly.”

From art history and literature to linguistics, all of Mileti’s professors proved to be unique.

However, it was also in his linguistics class Mileti met a close group of friends.

“It all started when a girl in my class, in usual fashion, discovered I was American and wanted to talk to me and see if I had ever seen ‘Breaking Bad,’” Mileti said.

Within this group of friends, Mileti became close to Jose Ramon and Alejandro due to their shared interest in film.

“Jose Ramon’s favorite director and artistic hero is Pedro Almodovar, whom I’m a big fan of and Alejandro likes Andrei Tarkovsky and David Lynch, so naturally we became close,” Mileti said.

Before getting to know Mileti, his friend Alejandro did not regard Americans in a positive way.

“I sincerely thought Americans were – pardon the expression – a bunch of jerks,” he said. “Here in Murcia, we associate Americans with McDonald’s, Bush and the Iraq War, guns and surprisingly, tons of cultural and financial movements.”

Becoming close friends with Mileti changed Alejandro’s views on American society.

In Mileti’s free time, he enjoys going to the Filmoteca, a theater in Spain showing old movies with Spanish subtitles, with his friends.

As for the Spanish nightlife, Mileti said his body simply could not handle staying up until 6 a.m. three nights a week.

Mileti has traveled to many places while he’s been abroad. A few places he still wants to travel to include Nuremberg, Rome, Helsinki and Stockholm.

When visiting a new place, Mileti likes to purchase a new piece of jewelry to add to his growing collection.

“In lieu of a postcard or some other more typical memento because, well, I’m not sure. Postcards felt too tacky, and you have to send them out anyway. Plus wearing lots of bracelets makes you look more hip, at least that’s the impression I aim for, and it’s a good conversation starter,” Mileti said.

He owns a few bracelets from places such as Spain, Romania and France, and some necklaces from Madrid, Amsterdam and Istanbul, each holding a significant memory.

“My favorite place so far is represented by a really stylish brown bracelet, bought from a flea market in Berlin. Everything about the city oozes cool. The clubs aren’t filled with cheap lighting and Top 40 hits, the street food is cheap, plentiful and tasty, and they have good coffee,” Mileti said.

Upon leaving Murcia for break, Mileti had a hard time saying goodbye to friends.

“As my friend Jose Ramon helped with my luggage into a taxi, I sang to him ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Dolly Parton as a silly act of defense,” Mileti said. “Once I entered that cab, I experienced a pain in my abdomen usually reserved for a bad break-up.”

Between semesters, Mileti traveled to Romania to visit his grandmother, accompanied by his mother.

“We saw family I’ve never met since I was three and it was all fine and good,” Mileti said.

Mileti said he looks forward to the new, cosmopolitan setting in Pamplona, Spain for his spring semester.

He said plans to eat out more since he will be living in a cheaper apartment. Mileti said he will not miss the food when he returns to America. He describes the food in Spain as “incredibly boring.”

At Universidad Publica de Navarra, Mileti will be switching his studies from linguistics to sociology.

“The university already appears to be more well-organized and put-together, so hopefully it won’t be a constant bureaucratic nightmare,” Mileti said.

As for when Mileti returns to the United States, he said he will truly miss the friends he made in Spain.

“Whatever the circumstance or location, the friend group I inserted myself into, so strong and full of trust, is improbable to find,” Mileti said. “I’ll remember them all for the rest of my life.”

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