Let's Talk Culture Shock

Camille Swinson
September 22, 2015

Have I only been in Spain for two weeks?! In all of the of the brochure-perfect study abroad stories I've heard, students state that their time overseas passes extremely quickly. Unique tapas bars, cobblestone-paved walks, and landmark selfies rapidly weave themselves into everyone's tapestry of a semester.

Well...these past two weeks have been anything but fast for me. Each minute has lasted its full sixty seconds, giving opportunities for leaning into discomfort (which I discussed in my first blog post) enough time to present themselves and work their magic.

The challenge I've had to overcome by doing so, though, has reared its ugly head in a scary two-word phrase:

Culture shock.

Terrifying, isn't it?

Some of the most prominent times I've felt it have been when my fast-paced, hustle and bustle mindset from Washington, DC has clashed with the no pasa nada (or “no worries”) easy-going and slower lifestyle that many citizens of Granada share. Learning that a coffee shop does not offer to-go cups while hurrying to get to an 8 a.m. class or naturally speed-walking behind a group of relaxed, slow-moving Spaniards has not been the easiest transition for this Nation's Capitol native.

However, it has been worthwhile.

I felt frustrated because I clung to pieces of a culture I find familiar as a defense when confronted with an unfamiliar one, creating static between the two. I then understood that I would not be making the most of my time abroad if I held onto each of the emotions and tendencies I found more comfortable. Since realizing this, I have felt more and more like a citizen of Granada each day by trying things here and there...that are scarier for me.

Since last week (the first week of classes, which I'll talk about it a later blog post...stay tuned!), I've made a hobby out of going to various coffee shops and libraries around the city to study. At first, I felt daunted by the task of navigating around Granada on my own (especially since Google Maps is not readily available for me here, yikes!). However, I knew that if I stayed in the comfort of the IES Center or my homestay to get my work done, I would be limiting myself and missing out on parts of Granada off the beaten (or cobblestone :) ) path. Exploring the city in this way has allowed me to grow more confident in navigating foreign environments, as well.

Additionally, constantly working to improve my Spanish in a place swimming with different accents and dialects of the language has felt intimidating at times. Remaining patient with myself and even asking questions when I face linguistic challenges during conversations with native speakers has allowed my Spanish to improve more and more each day.

Though challenges present themselves, maintaining a positive attitude has greatly impacted the way in which I've overcome obstacles. Questioning the timid emotions that I have at times doesn't feel as overwhelming, and maybe these past two weeks passed in just the right amount of time for me to adjust to mi nueva posición aquí :)

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Camille Swinson

<p>Camille Zoe Swinson is a junior International Studies major/Spanish minor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. When she is not watching Netflix, you can find Camille practicing her Spanish, researching or discussing global human rights issues and feminism, reading, or modern dancing. The Washington DC native and aspiring diplomat also participates in Model United Nations and the Student Ambassador program on her campus. Camille is excited to explore and get lost in the cobblestone paths and ruins of Granada, absorb its beautiful culture, and make new friends.</p>

2015 Fall
Home University:
Spelman College
Interdisciplinary Studies
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