Spain has many great things but what I’ve missed the most from home is the ease of communicating in a language that is comfortable to me. Although my Spanish has improved immensely it is still not nearly as comfortable as English. Nine months without being surrounded by my native language reminded me how fortunate I am to live in an environment that I find comfortable. Spain is a beautiful country and I’ve loved living here, what I will miss the most are the friends I’ve made while abroad and the beautiful places in Seville. Becoming friends with local students was one of the highlights of my semester, because of it I got to know Spain and its culture better. When I return home I don’t think I will experience any culture shock. While home for Christmas break I adjusted back to culture and had time to reflect on my first semester before going back to Spain. Now at the end of my second semester I am already familiar with the feeling of returning home after being gone for a long time. Now at the end of my nine months I’m ready to go back to the states and reengage with life at Western. Studying abroad provided me with many wonderful experiences that I would love to keep in my life. Speaking Spanish with native speakers is one experience that I plan on maintaining while I’m back in the states, Spanish friends and I have planned to keep speaking by Skype to practice. My nine months abroad have changed my appreciation for other cultures and have inspired me to travel more of the world.
Since September I have been studying Spanish for my Spanish major in Seville Spain. After finishing the first semester and going home for Christmas break I’m now preparing to return to Seville for my last semester abroad. While I’m studying abroad in Spain I hope to gain fluency in Spanish so that I can be a more culturally educated person competent in communication. Mastering a foreign language is a ubiquitous goal for many students studying abroad, but many underestimate the effort and commitment a full language emersion requires. Last semester I started my year abroad intending to be fluent by the time I finished the school year but after weeks of only being around American classmates I realized that a full language emersion requires much discipline and motivation to accomplish. My experiences last semester have better prepared me to accomplish my goal because I know what to expect and how to avoid being only around Americans. This semester I’m most excited to engage more with the Spanish language and see what opportunities arise from being around locals more. Last semester I spent most of my time adjusting to Spain and traveling with American friends but now I want to be primarily focused on speaking Spanish. I’m nervous about having a hard time finding consistent Spanish contacts to talk with every week but I’m confident that locals are eager to practice English as well. To overcome these obstacles I’m going to find volunteer opportunities that require me to talk to locals so that I can practice Spanish. This semester I optimistic and motivated to accomplish my goals and go back to Western fluent in Spanish.
As I prepare to go home I am beginning to realize that I am going to miss many things. But there are things that I have missed about the United States. The main thing that I miss from the United States is my family. Traveling and living half way across the world and only being able to see them through Skype or talk to them on the phone has been difficult. The other thing that I have missed is the variety of food. In Spain there is not much variety when it comes to ethnic food. The main type of food here is Spanish food and sometimes I long for Mexican or Asian food, which I cannot find here.
The thing that I will miss the most from Spain is constantly being surrounded by history and being immersed in the Spanish language. I will miss the winding streets with balconies and wide open plazas. I will miss going to the art museums and having a picnic in the park. Many of the quintessential Spanish things I will miss the most.
I do not think I will experience reverse culture shock when I return. The hardest part of culture shock was when I first arrived to Spain. There were a lot of different things I had to adjust to and I had adjusted just as my time here is coming to an end. On the other hand returning to the US will not be as difficult because I am familiar with it.
Since I will be returning to the US before the school year starts I will have more time to adjust. I plan to resume my daily life and begin to make things normal again to lessen the effects of reverse culture shock. I plan to share as many photos as I can with my family and friends and share with them my experience. My study abroad experience has been an important part of my education and I plan to incorporate as much as I can of what I have learned into my life and in the future. I plan to maintain the friendships that I have made here and to continue to communicate with my host family. My Spanish is a part of my everyday life so this will be much easier to maintain than other things that I have learned. One thing that I have learned while abroad is to remain engaged and informed with events not only in the United States but other countries as well and that it is an effective way to remain internationally engaged.
It’s a little over a week until I will depart on the biggest adventure of my life thus far. I will be boarding a plane to travel half way across the world, to a place that I have only dreamt of. I have studied, read about and seen movies about this place but now I will be stepping foot on the very land itself.
It is surreal for me to think that I will be in Spain and destination of my dreams. I had fallen in love from afar when I first saw Real Madrid play in person and from there on I took an interest in the city. I began to study Spanish in high school and immediately took to it and later on after three years I knew I had a passion for the language and the land from which it came.
I have been in Madrid for a little over three weeks by now. I still haven’t quite adjusted to the heat yet and the fast pace of life but I am finding a sense of rhythm and routine. One of my favorite things thus far is the architecture of the city. It seems like around every corner there is a new and interesting building to stop and admire. Even down a simple alley way, you can find a colorful pink building with Juliet balconies lined with flowers. In the busier parts of the city the grand and ornate buildings of the Plaza Mayor or the Palacio Real are easy to encounter.
I take classes at a local university that is located just outside the city and easily accessible by the Metro. Tucked into a quite area of Madrid is Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. I attend classes there most of the week unless I am having class in one of the various museums in the center of the city. I am taking two classes while I am here, a class about European art and another about travel writing. Since it is the summer and many students are away on vacations it seems the only students on campus are the ones in my program. There aren’t many activities or clubs since it is summer holidays but on the flip side, the spare time allows me to explore the city more.
My experience with the locals is at times brief, I spend much of my time with the locals on the Metro (the underground subway of Madrid), ordering at restaurants and conversing with my host mom. But overall despite the busyness that there is in Madrid, the locals are kind and willing to help, despite the lack of Spanish vocabulary in some instances which can make conversing difficult at times but worth it since it can be used as a learning opportunity to learn new words.
My university in the U.S. had prepared me for what was to come: culture shock. I thought I wasn’t going to have a problem with culture shock because I knew the language and I felt like I had studied the culture and history my entire student career. But was I wrong. In my mind Madrid wasn’t a big city and it was going to be one of the small Spanish towns that you see on postcards. I had an idealize version of the city and when I first arrived I was struck with the sheer size and multitude. I should have expected it to be as large as it is because it is the capital of Spain. Upon arrival I quickly realized that I would have to use the Metro system to get about everywhere in the city. The web of lines, trains and stops was intimidating at first but once I understood how it worked, it became much easier to navigate my way to the various parts of the city.
In hindsight, I wish had researched more about the city and how it functioned. Much of my research has been on the job training as I have been going about my days here in Madrid. I feel that more research of the city would have lessened the shock I received when I first arrived. But on the other hand, having to figure things out on the ground has helped me grow as a person and as a traveler.
It’s been 17 days since I arrived in a bus to Granada, my body full of sleep and my mind full of the chatter of strangers. The world looked blue out of the tinted windows as I watched hill after hill go by, white houses like snowflakes scattering the countryside. Andalucia is beautiful. History here is so tangible and common – most of those snowflake houses are now in ruins, a fragment of the family that used to live there. These places in the US would be hunted out, given a groundskeeper, and to visit you’d have to brave through no-trespassing signs.
So, yes, for those of you who’ve read my last post, I’m not over it.
One of the things that drew me to API was the abundance of included trips, excursions, and activities… and the first week of the program was no exception!
With my re-entry into life in the states, my study abroad (and two extra weeks of travel) have come to a close. Leaving Europe was one of the hardest things about growing abroad because I knew my amazing time had to come to an end. And although I am no longer studying abroad, the experience itself still impacts my day to day life.
With finals completed, some friends having already left for home, and my metro passes running out- the end of my time in Barcelona is officially closing in and I am having a hard time leaving. My month in Spain has been unparalleled, a cultural experience that surpassed any preconceived expectations. Living in an entirely new place truly helped me gain a different perspective on life.
I have officially hit the half way mark of my study abroad session in Barcelona, throughout which I have shifted away from feeling like a tourist on vacation and much more like a student/resident of Barcelona.
I finally made it to Spain (after two nights of sleeping on planes, and a twelve hour layover), and Barcelona has exceeded my already high expectations. The first few days have been spent getting to know the other students in my group and getting acquainted with the city. This has included seeing some of the most iconic Gaudí pieces in Barcelona, eating lunch at Spanish restaurants and riding the metro to school. Our school is a huge beautiful Spanish casa that has been converted into a our school right next to city center and across the street from a famous soccer players home (no, not Neymar).
Leading up to my very first European adventure- I am frantically attempting to gather every possible thing I might need or need to know for studying abroad. In a matter of days I will be hopping on a plane to the beautiful Spanish city of Barcelona, where the dreary Washington weather will be thousands of miles away and the Mediterranean climate will be patiently waiting. As I will be traveling outside the country alone (another first), a lot of thought has gone into this trip. For ten months I have been pursuing intel on what to pack and with six weeks in Europe and a thousand places I want to go; my idealistic and realistic ideas have to find a common ground.