When you get to Spain, you'll notice a few things are just different. I know I did. None of these things are good or bad necessarily, just things that an American in Spain has to get used to.
For example, the sidewalks? Chaotic. Not only are they made of cobblestone or stone tiles (several of which are loose—you get used to the surprise “clunks” as you're walking, but watch your footing!), but there is no order and it’s every man for themselves. This also means people will walk right between you and a friend if that’s the easiest way, and you’ll soon feel less weird about doing the same to others. Gone is the orderly “walk on the right side” rule that so many of us carefully follow at home. It irritated me at first, but as time went on I found it entertaining. Going to class became a sport as I dodged old ladies in giant fur coats, narrowly missed colliding with a man deep in conversation on his cell phone, and had to make some quick steps to avoid being trapped behind the longest line of kindergarteners I had ever seen—all within 5 minutes.
Another thing is the fashion. I knew Europeans dressed better than Americans, but you don’t really know what to expect until you get there. My lazy, 8 am class uniform of a sweatshirt and leggings would NOT fly on the streets of Salamanca. Sweatpants are also a no-no, and even sweatshirts are extremely few and far between. The worst part is, weekends aren’t even a day off, as (mostly older) women stroll around the city with their friends, all dressed to impress, and everyone else follows suit. My jeans shorts and oversized Nike t-shirt could never. Luckily, I love shopping, and my easy solution to avoiding looking American was to buy most of my clothes in Spain… although I never did get my hands on a pair of those surprisingly popular “leather” pants.
I will say, I LOVE the schedule Spaniards have. Breakfast whenever you get up, lunch around 2:30pm, and dinner around 9:30pm? Yes please! And don’t even get me started on the siesta, something I believe should be implemented here in the states. Everyone goes home for lunch AND we all get a nap when we’re done? Nothing could be better. I tried to keep this schedule when I came home, but to no avail. I guess I’ll just have to keep trying. Going out on the weekends also followed a different schedule—there were nights I didn’t leave to meet my friends until almost 1am, and then we all stayed out until 4:30am or later. I’m very much a night owl, so this schedule was super nice for me to be able to eat, do some homework, and then still have time to go out and have fun.
Lastly: the cigarettes. See, I knew smoking was more popular in Europe than it is in the US. But it was still striking to walk down the street for the first few times and see almost everyone with a cigarette in their hand. Nights out saw crowds of kids outside the bars taking smoke breaks, and during the day there was the same thing outside of schools. Classes at the university even had a break in between, during which over half the class would leave to go finish a cigarette before listening to the second half of lectures. Cigarette butts and the smell of smoke were everywhere, but to tell the truth, I barely noticed by the end. Both started to become reminders of Spain and of Salamanca, the city I loved so much—and while I still don’t think I’ll ever pick up smoking, at least now the previously unpleasant smell will bring back good memories whenever I encounter it.
Thanks for reading!
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<p>Hi, my name is Haley and I'm super excited to be studying in Spain this semester! I've been speaking Spanish since kindergarten, but this is one of the first times I will get to test how good I really am at communicating in a different language... wish me luck! I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis and have only left the US once, so I can only imagine what new and exciting experiences I will have during my time in Salamanca.</p>