Spain: A Study Abroad Perspective Part 2
The second part of my Spain Study Abroad Perspective post. For the first part click here.
I regret I didn’t travel more
Classes were held Monday-Thursday which meant every week you had a three day weekend to do whatever-whether it was staying local or traveling afar. During my semester there, I ended up traveling to three other countries (France, Italy, and Morocco), as well as making smaller trips within Spain (Granada, Tarifa, Jerez de la Frontera, Cordoba, and Madrid). I know to many of you this may seem like a lot, but when you’re living there and are so close to other locales, I just regret that I didn’t travel more. I don’t necessarily mean to other European countries, since at the time budget airline Vueling didn’t have much of a presence in Seville’s airport, but rather to other regions in Spain like Galicia, Salamanca, and the Costa del Sol.
My biggest travel regret is not going to the small town of Trujillo, located in the western autonomous community of Extremeadura, since it wasn’t that long of a bus ride and obviously it would have been inexpensive to get to. It’s a small area close to the Portuguese border, and it looked charming. It is the hometown of the famed conquistador of Peru, Francisco Pizarro. Having been to Peru and seen his remains in Lima’s Cathedral, it almost would have seemed full circle to have seen where he was born as well. It’s considered to be one of Spain’s prettiest towns.
Another regret is not having the opportunity to travel to Morocco beyond my one day visit. A local student travel agency organized week long trips there from Seville (my roommate and numerous other students from the program went on it). But naturally the trip took place during our break, the same week my dad came to visit. Morocco is a country I wouldn’t hesitate to go to, but I would want to do so with a group. And in today’s times, visiting North Africa/the Middle East just seemed like a simpler thing to do a decade ago.
But I guess it doesn’t matter how old you are or whether you’re a student or full-time worker, sometimes you really do just want to stay home and do nothing. I know I felt this way constantly throughout the semester.
Nothing tops the Andalusian Dialect
Most people know that Castilian Spanish sounds drastically different than the Spanish you hear in Latin America. However, the Spanish spoken in Andalusia sounds even different from standard Castilian. At the beginning I didn’t think there was any way in hell I would make it through the semester with passing grades after hearing my professors’ accents (my Current Events in Spain professor was the worst, further exacerbated by the fact that he really didn’t speak any English). But like anything when it comes to languages, your ears start to pick up the differences and adjust accordingly, as mine did. One of the greatest accomplishments I had at the end of my semester was not only gaining a near fluent level of Spanish but doing so in a dialect terribly difficult to master.
Being sick was my black mark
I contracted food poisoning a month after I arrived in Spain. It was the sickest I had ever been in my life, made worse by the fact that I was living with strangers in a house in which there was only one bathroom for five people. While the worst of it (vomiting and all the rest…) only lasted the first day, I felt horrible for weeks. My eating was off, I had bouts of severe stomach cramping, and my energy and strength were shot. I finally ended up seeing a doctor who prescribed me two antibiotics (what they were I have no idea). By taking them I finally started feeling better but so much of March was just a black mark that was marred by this unfortunate event. I know had I never gotten sick and felt well, I maybe would have done more too, both near and afar.
Being sick on a trip is the worst, but so is being sick when you’re living in a foreign country and simply want those home comforts. They can’t cure you but they can definitely help.
Spanish culture is a beast of its own
Between the fact that my elderly host dad wouldn’t go to bed until well after 1 in the morning each night, that it was perfectly normal for many to spend the whole evening carousing in a bar and not leave until 6 AM, and that having dinner at 9:30 PM was considered early, certain aspects of Spanish culture took a lot of getting used to.
My two “favorites” were not being able to buy breakfast in the small town of Tarifa while waiting to board my boat to Morocco but being able to order any number of alcoholic drinks, and being up and walking at 7 AM (a normal time for a weekday in the United States) but passing no one else but intoxicated individuals sleeping it off or, in the case of some I passed, still drinking, because as you know, many Spaniards don’t start their day until well after 9 AM (often later).
The whole “when in Rome” is a mantra I definitely subscribe to when traveling to other countries. However, it’s a bit hard when “Rome” is still making you follow an American academic schedule (i.e. early morning classes) paired with Spanish customs (eating dinner close to 10 PM).
I am dying to return to Spain and can still vividly remember much of Seville in my head. I’d love to return now that I’m older and wiser in some ways and also because I’m a foodie and know I would have an amazing culinary experience there. I realize some of my hesitancy in returning is tied to the fact that I’m still passport stamp/new country hungry. Also, I would want more than a week there. I not only want to revisit Seville but also want to see Barcelona again since my first and only time there was almost 15 years ago. I’d also love to make it to the North since the culture and landscape there are so drastically different from anything in the South. I really wish I could just wave a wand and make this happen but maybe one day soon it will. In the meantime, I’ll keep dreaming and fondly think back on my incredible semester there.