Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Spain (page 1 of 9)

A Glimpse of Spain

Name: Andrea Correa

Location: Sevilla, Spain

I always knew I wanted to study abroad, and I didn’t just do it to complete my degree requirement of a semester abroad, I did it because I felt there was something out there for me. I am a Junior, with a double major in International Business and Marketing and I graduate in 2024. I studied abroad Fall of 2022 in Sevilla, Spain and it has now become my second home. The memories I have, the people I met, and all of the places I saw will forever be nostalgic. Not only did I experience living in a different country, but I also saw the beauty of different cultures surrounding each country in Europe. As a first generation, Hispanic student, I dreamed about having the opportunity to study abroad across the world, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity Valpo gave me and how easy the process went for me. 


A picture of me in Plaza de España

I remember the day I had to leave, I did not feel nervous or anxious, I was leaving my comfort zone and my family (I’m a commuter and I have never been away from home,) yet I was overwhelmed with excitement about this new journey. I got on a plane by myself, and left to a country where I knew absolutely no one. I learned how to be independent and I came back with so much more confidence. I experienced so much culture shock, from languages, to the way people live, the food and the overall school experience. I mean, when will you see an American student, hop on the metro with their carry-on luggage to class, on a Friday because they’re traveling to a different country that weekend and heading to the airport right after classes? Most likely, never. However, I was able to quickly adapt and immerse myself into the beautiful Andalusian culture. I became used to seeing horse-carriages outside, a 30 minute walk became the norm for me, seeing women dancing Flamenco in every corner, and siesta time (my favorite). Spanish people prioritize socializing with others, which is why from 2-5pm, you will see all the locals having tapas at the bars with a glass of wine in their hand. I realized how much of a work/life balance there is in Europe, something that I believe does not exist here in the U.S.

Sunset from the Setas de Sevilla

Horse Carriages


It was also fairly cost efficient to travel around, so I visited 7 other countries to broaden my horizons. Basically, here is how some of my weeks would go in Spain: I would go to class from Monday through Thursday (no one had class on Fridays), and from Friday to Sunday, I would spend it in another country with my roommates. I was privileged enough to visit: France, Italy, Vatican City, Portugal, the U.K., Belgium, and the Netherlands. Each and every one had so much beautiful history and I loved trying my best to learn certain phrases from each country. I also traveled to many parts of Spain, like Ibiza, Barcelona, and many of the southern regions that border Seville.


You might think that I traveled more than I went to class, but that is not entirely true. I took 4 courses: International Business, International Marketing, International Economics, and my favorite, Food & Wine in Spain, which was my only class that was in Spanish. I learned so much about the gastronomy in Spain, like Iberian ham being extremely popular (and good) and of course I learned how to make Spain’s most famous dish, Paella! The lovely culture of wine with every meal, and how religions have impacted the gastronomy in Andalusia. I also had a better understanding of what was going on with the current Ukraine/Russian War because we always talked about it in my IB class, and now I know how companies market themselves differently in every country they are in. I also participated in a 10k marathon with over 20 thousand other people. Studying in another country really opened my eyes and made me realize how much we, as Americans, don’t talk about certain topics or how little knowledge we have on other cultures.


The Famous Paella!

Oranges on every tree in Sevilla! 



My roommates and I


Studying abroad helps you understand and appreciate different cultures, it broadens perspectives and it teaches you new ways to measure quality of life. I truly believe that every person should have the opportunity to study abroad because it changes you. It makes you a better person and a better qualified person in a pool of applicants when applying for jobs. I will end this blog with a famous quote from Saint Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” 

Friendship in Barcelona

Author: Elisabeth Walters

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

While studying abroad, it is important to open yourself up to not only new cultures, but also to new and different people. In the beginning of my exchange semester, I had met a unique girl, named Clara, from Barcelona who was finishing her year in Reutlingen within a month into my semester there. I also met Neil and Ethan, who would be in Reutlingen during the duration of my semester. However, the first time I met these people, I never imagined that in three months I would be visiting Clara with these two other boys.

On Thanksgiving day, Ethan, Neil, and I traveled to Barcelona to meet up with Clara. We arrived late in Barcelona; however, that was perfect because in Barcelona they have a different eating schedule. They usually eat breakfast around 7am, a snack around 11am, lunch around 3pm, and finally dinner around 9 pm or later. Awaiting us at her place, Clara prepared us a Thanksgiving dinner and there we talked and caught up about the happenings in our life. Throughout Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Clara showed us around the place she called home.

On Friday, she showed us the Arc de Triomf, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera-Casa Milà, the Barcelona Cathedral, and she took us to a churro shop. Clara had us try traditional Catalonian tapas and Spanish churros, both of which were phenomenal. While on Saturday she showed us sights from the beautiful old city of Barcelona, the Port of Barcelona, and took us to watch the sunset at the MUHBA Turó de la Rovira. Throughout that time, she continued to have us try traditional Spanish foods such as Paellas, in which, she taught us how to eat clams and shrimp properly. On our last full day, Clara took us to see the Basílica de la Sagrada Família, the Museu Nacional ďArt de Catalunya, and finally the Arenas de Barcelona

Although each day seemed different, they were actually really similar. Each day, we joked around, had meaningful conversations, and stayed up late into the night enjoying each other’s company. We played games, visited the local Christmas market, talked about Spanish traditions and customs, and even had a movie night at Clara’s apartment. On Monday morning, I was sad to leave Barcelona, not because I had to go back to school in Reutlingen, but because I was leaving my friend and a beautiful city with amazing memories.

My time in Barcelona, however, is not valued by the sites I visited or even by the food I tasted. When I look back in a few years, I’ll remember my time in Barcelona as the place where I made memories with my friends. Through my whole time abroad and specifically in Barcelona, I have realized that memories do not come from the sites you visit, but from the jokes and conversations that you had with the people you care for the most. Memories come from the friendships you build, and these memories are ones I will remember from my exchange semester abroad.

Growth in Granada

Author: Kayla Doyle

Location: Granada, Spain

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

When I first arrived in Granada, I was super excited but also had a little bit of nerves for the whole process. I was able to arrive in Spain a week early to visit my friend and her family in Madrid, which helped ease me back in to the Spanish culture and language. That week made me more excited to head down to Granada and start my semester abroad. Before arriving in Spain, I had a few goals that I wanted to accomplish during my time abroad. The main goals I had were to become braver/take more risks, determine my passions, and meet more Spanish people. Through the course of the semester, I also developed new goals that I worked on to achieve apart from these three.

Throughout my semester, I learned a lot about the Spanish culture as I had talked about in one of my previous blog posts. I also learned about other cultures and customs during my time abroad that were unexpected. I noticed differences in cultures every time I traveled to a new country or even cities in Spain. In Rome, I noticed some similarities between Italy and Spain, but also a few differences. For example, in Rome there were a lot of tourists and everything we saw was enormous. While in Spain there are a lot of tourists, but you can see the Spanish people more than you could in Italy. The food was also fairly similar, but Italy had a lot more pizza and pasta, as expected. When I traveled to London for a long weekend, it was the first place that felt most like home. There were differences between some of the words and phrases they used, compared to sayings in the US. My last trip to Dublin, Ireland was very similar to my trip to London in the fact that it too felt a little bit like home. Everything was green and was one of the cities that felt the least touristy and chaotic that I had visited around Europe.

Pasta Class in Rome

Tower Bridge in London

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

Overall, I learned a lot about myself and the world through my semester abroad. I learned the way I like to travel and explore new cities. I like to see the touristy things quick and then explore the surrounding neighborhoods slowly to be able to see the deeper culture and people behind a city/country. I also became confident in my Spanish skills while studying in Spain. I feel like I mostly improved my speaking skills by solely communicating in Spanish with my host family and the Granadinos. I learned how to do things on my own, without the help of an adult during my time here. For example, I managed to plan all of my trips by myself or with friends, to maneuver new cities, and to get an internship for the summer that took a lot of time and effort, but payed off in the end.

For my goals for the semester, I believe I achieved just about every one of them throughout my time abroad. My first goal that I continually worked on was to determine what I am passionate about. A few of my biggest passions I determined are first that I like learning about the history of food and dishes specific to certain counties. Next, I learned that I love to work with kids and learn about different countries and cultures. Another big passion of mine is sustainability, but more with a focus towards the perspective of a business. This was one of my goals for the semester because in the future I would love to start my own non-profit business in Central or South America, but I did not know what I wanted it to be because I was still unsure about what I was passionate about. After, deciphering some of the things I am passionate about I have a little better idea of what direction I want to take with my future business.

For my second goal of becoming braver, I feel like I made a big stride towards this while in Granada. I definitely tried things during my time abroad that I would not have done before. I took more risks than usual and it resulted in experiences I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t taken those risks. I became more independent. It helped that there weren’t any adults to do things for me. This experience gave me a new level of confidence I hadn’t had before. As for my last goal of meeting more Spanish people, this was one area I wish I pursued more throughout my time here. I met people through the program in Granada with our Spanish partners and the weekend activities we had with them. Also, just meeting and talking to different Spaniards in cafe’s or little shops.

As for advice for the future traveler abroad, I would definitely come with an open mind. You will probably experience things throughout your time that are different for you and may seem weird, but just be open to the differences in culture. I would also say to take advantage of every moment and say yes as much as possible. You don’t want to leave your semester abroad with regrets. Even if it means that you can’t watch the latest Netflix movie. And most importantly have fun! This is going to be something that I will remember for most of my life. Just having the opportunity to be abroad and learn about the Spanish culture as well as becoming familiar with other cultures around Europe through my travels.

Timing is Everything

Author: Garrett Gilmartin

Location: Granada, Spain

Pronouns: He/His/Him

When traveling abroad timing is an important aspect to account for. Yes, time zones are different when traveling, but there’s much more to timing than knowing what time it is. Everyone has heard the phrase “time it is relative” before. Generally, when people say this they are talking about how time is a construct of the human mind to be able to measure, at exactly what moment we should be at a certain place or where we were or are in past, present, and future. This may be true but I have found that timing is not just a universal idea, rather it is also an aspect of culture.


For example, a large aspect of Spanish culture is food, more specifically tapas. Tapas originate from when Spanish farmers were out in the fields working all day and carried wine skins and some sort of snack like, jamón, or cheeses. They carried wine skins and food to snack and stay energized while they worked all day. They would snack specifically before lunch and dinner. This has now evolved into the idea of tapas, where families and friends go out before a main meal and share small plates while having a drink of some sort. Now, what this has to do with time is there is a right time to eat tapas. Lunch here in Spain is a little bit later than what time we might eat lunch in the United States. Some host families here serve lunch around one or two, whereas my host family serves lunch around three or four in the afternoon. So, it is important to know that when in Spain tapas begin before lunch around noon or one and continue until about five which is when some places stop serving tapas until later. After about seven in the evening most places are open and serving tapas again. This is probably the busiest time for tapas as people are getting off of work or out of class and are going out with friends or colleagues or their family to share some drinks and talk about the day right before dinner which, in Spain, is around nine or ten at night. Basically, when in Spain it is important to familiarize yourself with the local tapas places and their open hours because it will be a large part of your stay.

Another important time to know in Spain is Siesta time! Siesta is a few hours in the afternoon when people take time to relax or maybe take a nap. Unless you have class or work it doesn’t matter what time you choose to take your Siesta nap, however, if you are planning to grab food or go to the store you have to schedule some of those activities around Siesta time because many stores and some restaurants close down for a couple of hours during the afternoon. So, when in Spain schedule nap time and plan activities like hikes or walks in the afternoon to avoid trying to go somewhere that is closed during siesta.


Lastly, there is what I call Spanish time. It’s just like Island time. People who live in warmer climates like the Caribbean or Spain tend to move a little slower and have a relaxed state of mind. This is absolutely true about Granada. If Granada had an official phrase it would be either “Tranquila” or “No pasa nada”(both basically mean no worries). In addition to constantly telling people to chill the people of Granada are late to everything. My professors are all constantly five minutes late to class. When people plan to meet up they usually end up meeting ten or twenty minutes after they had planned. Essentially, if you ever go to Spain do not expect anyone to be on time.


Spain in my opinion is all about going with the flow. Time spent relaxing and without worry seems to be the preferred mindset of the Granadan people. What I learned from this is to not waste my time worrying and to just go with the flow of life, however do be aware that it’s ok to be a little late as it is part of the culture, but don’t miss class, flights, or events because you’re feeling like lying in bed a bit longer. If you go to Spain, enjoy the relaxation but don’t miss out.

Expectations vs Realities

Author: Garrett Gilmartin

Location: Granada, Spain

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Studying abroad is no doubt one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences I have had the pleasure of living out, however, I feel that some people, including myself, go abroad expecting pure magic and no hardship which just is not realistic. I one hundred percent encourage everyone who has the means to study abroad, but I just want to clear some things up so that students have the right expectations and can therefore get the most of the experience.

The first expectation I had going abroad was that the people would likely be closed off to tourists/foreigners. I think I had this preconception because I have seen so many “cold” interactions in the U.S. between citizens and foreigners, meaning the U.S. citizens were the ones who didn’t stop to help with directions or care to share a conversation. Now I do not believe all U.S. citizens are not willing to help, this is just a little of what I have noticed. The reality, here in Granada, is that most people, from Spain or other European countries, would gladly help with directions or start up a conversation. One of my favorite cafes is a small place across from my school where any time of the day I could sit down and have someone to talk to in english or spanish. It could be the cashier or it could be customers, people here are just so warm and welcoming. Obviously, this was a pleasant surprise and I was glad that my expectation was disproven.

Another expectation I had arriving in Granada was that my program group would be my best friends and that we would all hang out and travel together. Unfortunately, I was wrong about this one too. Don’t get me wrong, I hold nothing against anyone in my program group. The reality is that not everyone was in love with the idea of all of us sticking together all of the time. Some people were occasionally left out of activities and travel plans. This isn’t something to get down about if it happens because personally I used the disconnect within my group to grow and explore individually. I ended up meeting a guy from England who came to Granada to take a few classes in spanish and explore the South of Spain. That is just what we did. I ended up going on hikes, walks through Granada, and talking about some interesting worldly topics with my new friend that I likely would have never experienced without trying to meet people outside of my program and school.

I was also able to grow personally by improving my spanish and my understanding of the culture here thanks to my host family. Before arriving I did not know what to expect of my host family. I had heard about great experiences but I had also heard of some horror stories. I’ve learned that it is luck of the draw. I was lucky enough to be placed with a caring excited family who are always happy to talk, take me out for food, and even bring me to their small town home in the mountains. Many others in my program say they too feel lucky whether they just have a host mother, which seems to be the norm, or they have both parents and a sibling like me. Not everyone had such luck this time though. There was a member of my program who was living with a host mom who would insult them on the phone with her friends and feed them as little food as possible. No worries, my group member ended up talking to our lovely director who helped transfer them immediately into a new placement. I gave examples of really great families and a really bad one but the lesson is that host families can be amazing, terrible, or in between so it is important to be open to new experiences and to try to get along to start. If things seem to be getting worse there are always people to help.

I could go on forever about the infinite expectations that one could have going abroad but I think overall there is a universal lesson here. It’s important to have realistic expectations when planning to go abroad, however, it is ok to dream a little because some of those experiences will be that pure magic I mentioned.

Housing Advice while Abroad

Author: Casey Bremer

Location: Viña del Mar, Chile/Granada, Spain

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

What advice would you give to students (we have one who is concerned about this that will go abroad in the Fall concerned about accommodations?

I was concerned about accommodations before going abroad, but I learned that it really isn’t as stressful as I had thought. The people I lived with were very kind, and gave me a true glimpse into the country’s culture. I wouldn’t stress too much about the accommodations. Your host family just wants to make sure you’re enjoying your experience abroad. Plus, they usually have years of experience hosting students so they’ve seen it all. They give you home-cooked meals, do your laundry, and take care of you when your family back home can’t. For example, I got bronchitis during my semester in Chile and my Chilean host mom went with me to the clinic, talked to the doctor, and helped me get the medicine. Without her, I don’t know if I would have known what to do, or how to talk to the doctor at the clinic. I’m so thankful she took care of me, because getting sick while abroad can be scary! One really important thing students should know is that communication is really important. If you don’t want to eat certain foods, tell your host family and they’ll stop giving it you. If you’re having issues with the host family, tell your program director and they’ll do their best to resolve the issues. It might be hard or embarrassing to talk about the issue, but saying it once will be better than living with it for the whole semester. Just make sure to communicate!

How does setting up accommodations work (what’s the process)?

The process was super easy. VU and the host institutions do a lot of the work for you, and you just need to put in your preferences and restrictions. For example, I told the program directors that I’m vegan/vegetarian and they worked with the families to tell them what I can and cannot eat before I get there so everyone is on the same page. Before you go, there is usually a survey to help find the best fit with students and family. For Granada and Viña del Mar, it was a pretty seamless process and everything worked out really well.

Is it something you should be ashamed of? Were you ashamed?

I’m not really sure what you would be ashamed of. I loved living with a host family in Spain and Chile, and my accommodations at the YMCA in Valparaíso were really great as well. It’s an easy way to get even more immersed in the different culture, and the people you live with are great resources for information about the country and the town you’re living in. Although it might be uncomfortable or awkward at first, I think living with a host family is the best way to experience a semester abroad. It’s also a great way to improve your language skills!

Will you have anonymity and privacy when you tell personnel that you need accommodations?

Yes! Of course, it varies depending on the program. However, in all three of the VU study abroad programs I’ve participated in, the personnel that I’ve worked with are very accommodating. The grand majority of the people working with VU and the other institutions really just want to make sure that you’re safe and you’re enjoying your time abroad. They will do whatever it takes to make sure you feel comfortable wherever you’re living. Privacy can be a big concern, but everyone I’ve worked with has been discreet and only share what is necessary.

Will it stop you from having fun and making new friends and experiences; how does it work abroad? How is your experience?

Absolutely not! No matter where you live, you’re going to have an incredible semester, meet interesting people, and have lots of fun! In my experience, the host families just want you to love the country and enjoy the semester. They don’t mind if you come home late, or skip a meal to go out with friends. They only want to make sure you’re safe. The only frustrating thing is that I couldn’t have friends over to my house (although it depends on which program and the family you live with). However, instead of having that ruin the experience, my friends and I used that as an excuse to go out and explore the city more! I think that no matter what, accommodations won’t stop you from having fun or from making really great friends. And if it does, tell your program director or someone at VU and they’ll work with you to improve the situation! Regardless of where you live, your semester abroad will an unforgettable experience and you’ll meet people that will become some of your closest friends.

Semana Santa

Author: Kayla Doyle

Location: Rome, Italy/Granada, Spain

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

This semester I was fortunate enough to be able to celebrate Easter festivities in two countries: Italy and Spain. I went to Rome with a group of friends from my program for the first half of the week before Easter. The second half of the week we were back in Spain and able to participate in Semana Santa. Both experiences were different than I normally celebrate Easter back home in Michigan with my family, but it was very eye-opening and intriguing to witness. 

When I went to Rome, we had to walk through the Vatican City just about every day to get to the center from our Airbnb. We happened to be there during Palm Sunday, so a few of my friends and I decided to go to the Vatican for mass with the Pope. On Sunday, we arrived at the Vatican and had to go through security to get into the main plaza for the ceremony. When we got through, we were given an olive branch to participate in the Mass and a rosary to commemorate the celebration. There were seats in various sections closed off to people who had reserved seats. We did not have a reservation, so we stood right behind a fence that blocked off the reserved seats that still had a decent view. The ceremony was three hours long, but we only stayed for the first half of it. There was a procession at the beginning which included people carrying palms, followed by bishops and the Pope. It was spectacular! Then there were a few readings and the pope gave a homily, however I couldn’t understand anything because it was all in Italian. After the Pope’s homily we left, but remained in awe of what we just witnessed. I have never been to a church service so enormous and surrounded by people from all over the world. I would highly recommend anyone to experience a mass at the Vatican City.

After we came back from Rome, we were able to see the processions in Granada that same night. It is very popular in the south of Spain to celebrate Semana Santa with huge processions the week leading up to Easter. In the processions there are people wearing a uniform that looks exactly like the clothes that the Klu Klux Klan wore, but the two are not associated at all. I’m not going to lie it was a little scary to see at first. There is also a band that plays music for the march. And my favorite part of the processions, are the floats that are carried by men below the structure. The floats are decorated in gold, flowers, candles, and porcelain objects, and the image differs each day of the week. The people in each city and “brotherhood” in charge of the processions planned all year for this week.

The processions are something that people from around the world travel to come see during Semana Santa every year, so the streets are full of people through the night. I enjoyed seeing the streets full of life, as it is a time of anticipation for the processions and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I enjoyed experiencing Easter in a new way this year, but also missed the time together celebrating with my family back home and watching my little cousins hunt for eggs the Easter Bunny laid out for them. But I guess seeing the Pope makes up for all of that!

Culture Rocks to Culture Shocks

Author: Garrett Gilmartin

Location: Granada, Spain

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Anyone who has travelled, whether it be from one state to another or one country to another, knows that seeing new plants, people, or buildings can be breathtaking. This was my experience arriving in Spain. Of course, I had some nerves because I did not know anyone in my program. There are other students from Valpo within the program but I knew as much about them as I did everyone else I met upon arrival. Nerves aside, I was extremely excited to be able to use Spanish in a setting other than a classroom.

Culture shock was a big topic before leaving the U.S. and throughout orientation here in Spain. This trip was not the first time I had travelled outside of the United States, so I did not understand the idea of culture shock. It did not make sense to me as I love to absorb information on other cultures, religions, and people, and could not imagine feeling uncomfortable in an environment rich with information for me to absorb. I was wrong… Moreover, despite the mini courses and orientation I went through, I still feel as though culture shock is nothing like what I was told to expect.

I was told that culture shock, without the fancy dictionary definition, was essentially feeling a mixture of homesickness, loneliness, and uncomfortability. That was without a doubt spot on to how I felt when culture shock set in. What was surprising was exactly when the shock set in. My director here in Spain told me once that she had seen charts showing a vague timeline for how one should or might feel while studying abroad or spending a large duration of time in different country, however, she has observed that instead of one large dip in the chart, where student’s feelings of loneliness kick in, there are often two dips before returning home which students are not ready for.

The first is soon after arrival, when it sinks in that the student really is abroad and cannot just call up their friends to go out anymore.This dip in comfortability is often accounted for in standard charts. The second is about half way through the program (in my case a semester) when culture shock hits the hardest because the mix of excitement to go home and hearing from family and friends how things are happening and changing without the student being there can make them feel like they are missing out. This second dip in emotion is the surprising one. Personally, at this point I felt so detached from the life I knew back in the U.S. but also not a perfect fit for Spain. For me this was like losing a sense of belonging to anywhere.

How I dealt with culture shock might not be a perfect fit for others, but (logically) my solution for not feeling like I had a home was to make one. Obviously, I could not try to rebuilt that feeling with Valpo or the Chicagoland area because that is not where I am. So, I really focused on the opportunities in front of me. My host family is wonderful.

I have a host mother and father as well as a host brother who is fifteen, which is actually quite unusual. Most host “families” here consist of a host mother and possibly her grown children who visit now and again. Anyway, that’s just the immediate family that I live with in Granada. There is an older daughter and an older son who have moved out. The daughter comes back to visit often and the son owns one of two total bars in a small mountain town in the region Alpujarras. We often go to visit him on the weekends to help with the bar and get some work done on my host father’s farm. These weekend trips and being able to help with some work has made me feel like part of the family. I am even getting to know many other people who live in the town.

The reality is that everyone experiences culture shock or deals with culture shock differently, but hopefully I can prepare others a little bit more for their trips abroad by revealing how I dealt with it. Other ways to build a family like setting here is to be brave and make friends in and out of one’s program, as I have in Alpujarras and Granada.

The Spanish Culture

Author: Kayla Doyle

Location: Granada, Spain

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I’ve been in Spain for almost two months now and I’ve had a bit of time to reflect upon my experience thus far. I am currently living in the south of Spain in Granada, which has a different style of life than other parts of the country. This past weekend I traveled to Madrid and was able to distinguish differences between Andalucians (people from the southern parts of Spain) and Madrileños (people from Madrid). I was also able to differentiate Spain and the United States in regard to various aspects of each culture.

To start, in the south they have a much deeper accent than people in Madrid have. In Andalucía, the people slur a lot of their words together and shorten them, making it the most difficult accent to understand in Spain. People from Madrid even admit that they can’t understand southerners. It’s kind of like the accent southerners in the US have and the different slang words they use. Another difference between Andalucía and Madrid is the different way of life each lives.  In Andalucía, they live the stereotypical life of relaxation and fiestas, and then comes work. Madrid lives a life that prioritizes work and school before vacations and relaxation.

Some things that are different in the Spanish culture than I am normally accustomed to in the United States are some of the little things that can sometimes go unnoticeable. For example, the paper here is longer than in the United States. I remember when my professor gave me a handout for the first time and I went to put it in my folder that I brought from the US, I was confused why it didn’t fit correctly inside. I then had that problem with other classes and realized the difference. Something small and insignificant made me curious to find other differences.

In Spain, coffee is a lot cheaper here. Given the portions are a lot smaller, the price is less than half of what I would normally pay for a drink at Starbucks in the US. Another thing is that Spaniards walk almost everywhere, they hardly use cars and some families don’t even own a car. The transportation system is very good in Spain and in most cities it is not necessary to drive places. Something that surprised me coming here was that when you go to a restaurant or out for tapas, the bill is all together, meaning you can’t pay separately. My friends and I always have to calculate how much each one of us owes and exchange whatever change we have to make it even. It sounds easy, until you have ten friends trying to pay for a two-euro coffee and everyone only has a twenty-euro bill, it gets kind of tricky.

A couple other small things that I thought were funny here is that there are always people with dogs walking on the streets, but it is very weird if you pet someone else’s dog on the street unlike in the US where people are a little more welcoming to that. Also, it is normal to invite a friend over to get together at your house, but in Spain it is not that way. It is said here that the house is only for sleeping and eating and the streets are where you get together with friends. This is one of the reasons why Spain is so lively at night.

In general, I enjoy things from both cultures and dislike certain things from each as well. In my opinion, Spain is a more socially driven culture as they frequently meet people in the street to get together. I do like walking here as well, so you can burn some of calories after eating a big meal made by your host mom. I do miss certain things from the US though. I miss iced coffee, being able to drive on my own, cooking whenever I want, and inviting friends over to my house. But don’t get me wrong, I am not ready to leave Spain yet, I still have two-and-a-half months left.

La Mar y Las Montañas

Author: Gabi Neuman 

Location: Granada, Spain

If you don’t speak Spanish, the meaning of this title is the sea and the mountains—in my opinion it flows better in Spanish with that lovely alliteration.  Last weekend I was fortunate enough to experience both of these aspects of nature on Friday (because we normally don’t have Friday classes!!!) and then Saturday, which was appropriate for Earth Day I’d say.  Granada, being part of Andalucía, is in southern Spain where some of Spain’s highest mountains are located, yet it is also only an hour drive to the closest coast.  It’s the best of both worlds, if you ask me.

On Friday, three of my friends and I took a bus to the coast of Granada around 9am and arrived in Nerja around 11am, a tourist coastal town close to Malaga.  After dealing with 2 months of straight rain, our first beach day was a major step up from being stuck inside all day every day.  We made it to the center of the town and found a brunch place that over looked the Mediterranean Sea (as you can see in the photos).  After finishing our second breakfast of the day since we had all already eaten at home, we headed for the beach.  In Nerja there are supposedly two beaches—one large one, or what you would typically think for a beach, and then a smaller beach with beach chairs to rent.  Being that we couldn’t find the large beach and we were standing right next to the small beach, we decided to venture down to the small beach where we rented chairs for the day and chilled for about 6 hours.  Once we were on the bus back to Granada, we unanimously decided that it was by far our favorite day in Spain thus far.

The next day, Saturday, we had a hike with our program and our intercambios.  Quick description of what an intercambio is.  Through the Central College program we partner up with about 7 students who attend the University of Granada (local Granadinos).  During the semester we go to places throughout the city with them such as an open air market, out for coffee, and our last activity which was a hike up through the mountains.  None of us knew where we were going so we did about 3 circles through the touristy part of the city and then proceeded to hike up past the Alhambra—the most famous site in Granada.  A side note about Spanish girls vs. American girls going on a hike: usually Americans are prepared to sweat since it is April in Spain and things are starting to heat up, especially when you’re going on a 4 hour hike.  This means that we wear sport shorts, t-shirts, no makeup, and our hair is up and out of our face.  Spanish girls are the opposite.  They have long leggings on, their hair down, perfect makeup, and if they were wearing a t-shirt they were one of the rare ones.  That being said, I’m convinced that Spaniards don’t sweat, so they can get all primped up for a hot and sweaty hike.  Just another cultural difference if you ask me.  Moving on…we started at 9am, walked past the Alhambra, meandered through a field of sheep (and sheep poop), and made it to the top of the mountain by around 1:00pm where there’s a park that the majority of people drive up to.  After eating lunch and playing a game of “Detective”(which is pretty fun but I would recommend playing it in your first language). After Detective, we headed back down the mountain which took about a third of the time as it did getting up.

All in all, I’m thankful for the weather change and that it actually looks like spring here so that I can experience the Granada that the rain wouldn’t let me see.  It’s a gorgeous city with lots of nature surrounding it that stretches from la mar to las montañas.  The best of both worlds.

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