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Student abroad can’t leave shows behind her

Cassie Belek | Monday, March 5, 2007

What’s the only thing that can make “Walker, Texas Ranger” even better? That would be “Walker, Texas Ranger” dubbed in Spanish.

After a month and a half of my studies in Spain, I have come to learn of the glories of Spanish television and of the wonders of the advancement of the internet. I’ve been able to keep track of America’s major popular culture events, and thank goodness, I’ve still been able to watch “The Office” and “Ugly Betty” for free. I remember a time when I was nervous about missing my series when I came to Spain. Now that seems so silly.

Because of my love of American television, I have become completely fascinated with Spanish TV, or rather, American television dubbed in Spanish. Spain only has a handful of television channels. Unless you own a satellite dish, it’s nothing like the United States. Television is almost as important here as it is in the States. Every family has a television set in the kitchen. My own host family’s set rests only one foot away from the kitchen table. During dinner, we don’t talk-we watch TV.

I have also noticed that nine times out of ten, my host family will choose American programs over Spanish programs. After all, Hollywood studios spend much more money producing programs than anyone in Europe. American programs have the money to pay for the best acting, the best special effects and the best sets. Every Thursday, we have to watch “Without a Trace.” During the rest of the week we watch everything from “CSI: Miami” to “Prison Break” to “Grey’s Anatomy.” I’ve seen relatively few programs from Spain with the exception of Spain’s “Big Brother” and “Dancing with the Stars.”

Of course, I have remained loyal to the current seasons of American television. Before I left for Spain, my friends were absolutely convinced that I wouldn’t want to sit in front of my computer and watch American TV when I had Spain at my feet. But then again, try telling that to the approximately 15 other people here who approach me each week asking if I have seen the latest episode of “The Office.”

We are a generation who loves our television, and I believe that I couldn’t have picked a better semester to be abroad and be a TV fan. Between YouTube and the explosion of free websites that post new episodes each week of practically every series, it’s never been easier to stay connected and updated. I’ve even found a website that posts new episodes of my dearly beloved “General Hospital” everyday. It’s quite wonderful.

However, I often wonder whether or not the spread of American television in Europe and the easy access of pop culture news and American television online is hindering my study abroad experience. After all, the point of study abroad is to immerse yourself into a new culture and escape your comfort zone. At this point, I feel almost no loss of connection from the United States. I can intensely follow the Britney saga and watch the newest episode of “Scrubs” with ease. I’m still getting a hefty dose of Spain, but the internet has allowed America to stay in my life everyday.

But then again, I really can’t imagine not being able to find out what happens next with Jim and Pam until I return in May. I want what I want when I want it. It isn’t simply a character flaw-it’s a generational flaw.

Contact Cassie Belek at cbelek@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.