I have been in Spain for one week now. When I arrived, I experienced an instant culture shock. Throughout this week, I have become accustomed to many different cultural norms, including speaking Spanish in the home and using it in every day life, having later meal times (Lunch after 2:30, Dinner after 9:30), making conservation of water and electricity a priority (utilities are more expensive in Europe than in the US), wearing shoes in the house all the time, and having very few places open on Sunday. My Spanish shows disappeared from Netflix when I arrived, which I found surprising. Other shows have returned, including How I Met Your Mother, which, to many’s disappointment, left Netflix in the US several months ago.
I have never been much of a coffee drinker, but here I start every morning with a cup of coffee, and I walk to the University with my roommates. It is a 30 minute walk through the downtown area, and we pass by several shops and city landmarks along the way. Gelato shops are very popular, as I see several of them down every block. Many of them sell pionono, which is a small, custard liquor dessert that is traditional to the city.
In Spanish Universities, you start your major classes right away, and each department or college is at a separate location in the city. I am studying Spanish , so I take all of my classes at the Center of Modern Languages. English is banned in the classroom, and they have more of an emphasis in oral communication than written communication, so I am learning to become more confident with conversing in Spanish for long periods of time and using it in class discussion.
Every day after lunch, we have a siesta, which is a common hour for taking a nap before finishing the day. I like to take a short nap and then take a walk around the town. Walking around the town is a great way to become immersed in the city and practice my Spanish. Sometimes I can blend in like I belong here, I make my daily exchanges in Spanish, and I have even had people ask me for directions, as if I were a local. Other times, the very sight of me screams “American tourist,” and shop owners have seen me coming and immediately started speaking English.
In the evening, I go on excursions in the town, sometimes with my whole program, other times in smaller groups. A couple of times I have tried Tapas, which is a custom in Spain where you go out for drinks, and you receive a complementary appetizer to go with it. I have visited a cathedral, a tea house, a palace, ceramics, two different overlooks of the city, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range (not to be confused with the Sierra Nevada mountains in the United States).
At one of the overlooks, there were several musicians who played traditional music that complemented the beautiful view of the city and the Alhambra Palace.
So far, I have had a great first week! It’s still early in my visit, so everything about my life in Spain is very new and very exciting! It has been a fun challenge to meet people from around the world and immerse myself into a new culture, and I am excited for what the rest of my summer semester has in store!