Category: Granada (page 1 of 4)

All posts from Granada, Spain.

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.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Author: Gabi Neuman

Location: Granada, Spain

It’s that strange time during my study abroad experience that I feel like I’ve been here forever and that I just got here all at the same time.  Being that it’s the middle of April, I’ve been in Spain for about 3 and a half months and I have just under two months left.  I just got back from Paris last weekend and I leave for Germany and Switzerland in about a week and a half—needless to say life is moving along very quickly and I’ll be back in the States before I know it, which blows my mind.

At the beginning of the semester or even more towards the middle during February and up until mid-March, I focused a lot on what I miss from home whether that be food, people, my bed, or whatever else, and I’m pretty sure that’s a normal process to go through at that point of one’s study abroad semester.  However, now that I’m closer to the end rather than the beginning of my journey here, I’ve noticed myself thinking about the things I’ll miss when I go home.  Here’s a quick taste of what some of those things might be:

  • The plethora of stews that Carmen makes (with many ingredients I never would have eaten in the U.S.)
  • Fresh oranges
  • BREAD (every day for every meal)
  • Walking everywhere (not when it’s raining, but nice weather is starting to make an appearance)
  • Seeing the mountains on a daily basis (the highest mountain in Spain is in Granada)
  • Having more down time than I’ve ever had in my life
  • Meeting new people from different countries (I’ve had close to 40 international students and professors stay with my host family throughout the semester)
  • Being able to travel to foreign countries for an extended weekend
  • Not having class on Fridays (that’s going to be a hard one to readjust to next semester)

There are so many things I miss from home right now, but when I go back to the U.S. I know there will be things I wish I had taken advantage of or appreciated more when I was abroad.  There’s so much I’ve already done in this short time, so much more to do, and a ton left to learn and appreciate about where I am now.  Whoever came up with the phrase, “Time flies when you’re having fun”, sure knew what they were talking about and I hope I take advantage of the small amount of time I have left.

***Hope you enjoy the pictures of my time in Paris, France—it was a blast***

Semana Santa—Tradition or Thought Process?

Author: Gabi Neuman

Location: Granada, Spain

This past week in Spain was Semana Santa or Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday.  To say that Spaniards take their celebrations during Semana Santa lightly would be an extreme understatement.  The entire week is a vacation week, with processions taking place every day through the streets and crowds surrounding those processions in a swarm (think the size of Fourth of July parades but with tiny, narrow cobblestone streets…and no candy being thrown to onlookers).

Just to describe the process a little bit (which won’t do it justice, but anyways) each city or town has their own processions which consist of a group of men carrying a massive float that contains statues of Jesus and his crucifixion or the Virgin Mary, a large amount of flowers, a canopy covering the statues in some cases, candles, gold, and any other items that contribute to the enormous amount of weight.  There are about 6 rows of men manually carrying the float and there are even more men under the float that you can’t see.  From what one Spanish girl told me, each man can be carrying 100 pounds or even maybe even more, which is distributed just on their shoulders without any padding to help with the immense weight.  The float is preceded by a group of men and women whose faces and heads are covered with large pointed hats as they carry candles and also children and young people who swing the incense holder, leading up to the float.  The float is then followed by a band playing solemn hymns.  All in all, the processions are an amazing spectacle and a great opportunity to  to experience while being abroad.

While Semana Santa seems to me to be one of the most important traditions Spain has to offer, for some it also seems to be just that—a tradition.  Although the basis of the processions is to commemorate and celebrate the life of Jesus, his death and resurrection and reflecting on what that means, many seem to participate in the tradition as part of their culture and only for that purpose.  They remember their roots and history, appreciating the art and tradition but not taking in the reason behind the processions and why it is they are celebrating.  In all honesty it’s a little sad to me, coming from a Christian home and background where Easter is one of the most important days of the year, especially in the church, and makes me question the value of traditions and important religious celebrations like Easter and Christmas—am I celebrating with a purpose or just because it’s how it always has been?

Experiencing Semana Santa here in Spain has not only caused me to observe and question the cultural values of the Spanish, but also my own.  It has given me the opportunity to look beyond the surface of what we consider culture and delve into the meaning and actions driving that culture, whether that be traditions like Semana Santa in Spain or Easter in the United States.  This constant stream of learning seems to be a pattern of mine while being abroad, and hopefully I continue it during my next few months here.

When You Realize How Good You’ve Got It

Author: Gabi Neuman

Location: Granada, Spain

If you read my last two blog posts you might remember me discussing the more “negative” aspects of studying abroad.  However, after this past weekend I’ve realized how good I actually have it here in Granada.  In a week my parents come for Semana Santa or Holy Week here in Spain. I’m still learning all sorts of things from this culture and the people.  I spent last weekend in Barcelona which was a nice escape from the 4 weeks of continuous rain we’ve had here in Granada (this much rain is a rarity but extremely helpful since southern Spain is currently experiencing a drought).

 

To give you a little background information on the city of Granada compared to Barcelona, Granada is home to about 235,000 people whereas the population of Barcelona is close to 4.6 million.  Just a tad bit bigger if you ask me.  While in Barcelona we visited La Sagrada Familia, a largely famous cathedral which Gaudi began in the 1800s and is still being constructed today.  The estimated year of completion is 2026 (supposedly), and it’s one of the most stunning pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen—the photos don’t do it justice.  Another of Gaudi’s famous works is Park Güell which we also were also lucky enough to visit.  If you’ve ever seen some of Gaudi’s architecture it has a very modern look, especially considering it was created by a man who was born in the 1800s (as you can see in the pictures).  We also were able to travel to Montserrat, a suburb of Barcelona where a monastery is built into the side of a mountain and can only be traveled to by cable car or mountain train.  All in all the views and architecture of the city are incredible.

Even though the city of Barcelona is absolutely breathtaking, the weather was perfect, there was great food (we even got a taste of American), and I enjoyed myself in every sense of the word, I know now that I wouldn’t trade living in Granada for any other city.  Because Barcelona is so big we took between 10 to 15 taxis, walked about an hour and a half back to our hostel on the outskirts of the city, took a very confusing metro/train ride to Montserrat, spent a decent sum of money on food because as a popular tourist city prices are automatically increased, and were spoken English to about everywhere we went (also due to the tourist aspect of the city).  You could also spend a whole semester in Barcelona and still not see everything.  These aren’t necessarily negative aspects about Barcelona, but it is very different from Granada.

Not to say that Granada is better than Barcelona by any means because it’s not, but I know that Granada is the perfect fit for me.  I can walk to class in 10 minutes or walk anywhere in the city in under 30 minutes without having to use taxis, I don’t have to spend an astronomical amount on food, clothes, or much of anything for that matter, Granada still has a very rich history and many places to discover, and the locals generally speak Spanish to me.  Not everything is perfect in Granada, but it’s pretty great and maybe it just took me leaving the city for a few days to realize that.

Sometimes You Just Want to Sleep in Your Own Bed

Author: Gabi Neuman

Location: Granada, Spain

Before I left on my study abroad adventure, I attended a few meetings last semester to prepare students who are studying abroad this semester.  I was told quite a few times about the culture shock cycle, which if you haven’t heard about, is a theory that describes the four stages of culture adjustment that a person faces when going abroad.

There are different takes on the theory and different terms for each version of it, but in general you have the honeymoon stage, culture shock, adjustment, and then adaptation.  To briefly describe the stages in my own interpretation, honeymoon is just what it sounds like.  You basically are in awe at all these new things, people, places, and all of the cool stuff around you. You can’t imagine how any of these things could be considered anything less than amazing.

A few weeks or months into your time abroad is when the downward slope takes place, moving you towards culture shock or frustration.  In this stage, things that were once new and cool aren’t new anymore and you start to see the differences between what you’re used to at home and how the people act here. You start to get frustrated with those differences.  However, it doesn’t just end there with this sense of frustration.  Gradually you start to adjust to this different and new way of life, potentially being annoyed with certain things, but also seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and the positive aspects of the culture around you.  This moves, then, into the final stage of cultural adjustment which is adaptation.  Essentially in this stage you have become part of the culture you are living in and may even consider it your own.

You might be wondering why I would describe the culture adjustment cycle.  At first when this cycle and these stages were being explained in those meetings I attended, I thought a lot of it was over exaggerated and that nothing in Spain could be bad because I would be traveling all the time, doing things I can’t do in the U.S., meeting new people, and all of that great stuff.  However, now I know that this whole culture shock/adjustment thing is real.  I am not saying that I’m hating anything over here by any means or that I’m not enjoying my time, because I truly am.  All I’m saying is that sometimes you just miss home and things that you don’t think you’ll miss before you go abroad are the things you miss the most.  So to share with you some of the things I personally miss:

  • Being able to go into the kitchen to grab a snack
  • Having less than 7-8 hours between lunch and dinner because midday hunger is a real thing
  • Eating not so extremely late at night and then going to bed an hour or two after eating (hardcore metabolism adjustment had to take place)
  • Living close/having access to a gym that isn’t packed with equipment and has a normal locker room
  • Real dessert instead of fruit for dessert (which is the cause for the hoard of chocolate in my closet)
  • Watching TV that isn’t just Spanish news
  • Going to bed early and not feeling like a “grandma” for it because your host mom and host grandma are still up
  • My own bed
  • Central heating (I knew about this before I left, but who thought it would be a good idea to let the inside of houses be colder than the outside all winter??)
  • Being able to communicate fluently and not think about what you’re going to say 5 minutes before you say it
  • Not having to ask everyone to repeat themselves 3 times which causes them to give up and come back to you in English
  • Wearing sweatpants/leggings outside and not standing out as an American
  • The internet working on a regular basis
  • Being able to watch networks like Amazon Prime or any other form of American TV
  • Free water & bathrooms

Honestly the list could go on simply with little, everyday things that I take for granted at home in the U.S. and don’t have access to here.  But again, in the big scheme of things these are just minor details of what it’s like living abroad and the fact that there will be good days and bad, there will be things from home you miss more than others, and at the opposite end of the spectrum there will be things you wish you could take back home with you when your time here is done.  I know this list might sound like a long file of complaints, but I really just wanted to put life into perspective a little bit.  Studying abroad for me so far has been amazing with lots of high points, but there are also a few lows here and there.  As a personal take away, I would say that studying abroad has not only opened my eyes to the beauty of different cultures around the world, but it has also shown me those things I take for granted and how much I appreciate my own country and where I come from.

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