Excitement. Nervousness. Discomfort. Sadness. Elation. Curiosity. Relief.
These are all symptoms of studying abroad. No one said it was going to be easy, at least not at the beginning.
But when you’re whirling across the Iberian peninsula, geared toward the gut of America (Texas), you really start to reflect. When you don’t have the Spanish breeze blowing through your hair, the nasally Castilian dialect (sorry) tugging at your ears, or the taste of jamón ibérico nestled on your tongue, you feel a twinge of withdrawal. But you also get to think.
Objectively, this was a great decision.
After passing that initial, awkward, stabilizing period, of arriving in a new country, I was able to look up, see the beauty around me and finally appreciate it. When I thought about leaving Salamanca, I wanted to drag my hand along the sandstone walls of all the buildings and take a piece of the city with me. Even after buying friends and family souvenirs, I knew those wouldn’t be able to show them things like the sound of the church bells Sunday mornings, the smell of my favorite cafes, brimming with chocolate con churros, coffee and anything else you would possibly want, or the throbbing bass of discotecas and stores everywhere, pulsing reggaeton igniting people from all around the globe and encouraging us to dance and enjoy life.
I fell into a routine: some of the favorite meals I had were enhanced by how they blended with the time of day. My breakfast usually entailed a very rushed espresso with milk (homemade in the dorm!) and maybe a granola bar. Then I’d sprint down the craggy, uneven sidewalks for my language class. One of the best parts of my day was the afternoon, something I would never say in the US. In Spain, food isn’t something you mechanically shovel down every 4 hours. Meals are social and meant to be enjoyed slowly. Everyone in town takes a break and goes home or to a restaurant to eat, and by doing so, you feel like you’re a part of the fabric of the city. Since I was ravenous beyond belief after a skimpy breakfast, I went with a few friends to grab a cafe con leche or cappuccino and a tapa, a tiny (cheap) Spanish portion of what’s usually like an appetizer in the US. Examples would include the Spanish tortilla, a mixture of eggs and potatoes that sits up like a little omelet/quiche, smoked salmon on cream cheese served on a little slice of bread, or even a piece of cake. Delicious and not too guilt inducing. Needless to say, it was a great way to blend friendship with the enjoyment of a caffeine high and finally eating properly after waking up. All jokes aside, it was my usual way to recharge into the day. After what was usually a class right before lunch, I headed off to the dining hall (since I lived in a dorm, I didn’t go home every afternoon for lunch) and socialized with my Spanish friends over the gigantic portions of typical Spanish meals. We would always get a piece of “rustic” bread, a delicious, European style bread that’s similar to ciabatta but crunchier, a “plato principal” which was salad or lentils or soup (sometimes they had paella which, apparently, is just called “arroz”) and “segundo,” usually a hearty meat and fries. I got so used to eating fries and asking for ketchup with every meal that the dining hall people knew me when I came through and had ketchup ready. From all the friends I made, to the friendly staff members who would joke with me and teach me the names of new foods, a once socially nerve-wracking part of my experience became one of the things I’ll sorely miss about my experience: eating and bonding at the comedor and having the equivalent of home-cooked meals without the wait (yes, I was lazy when it came to housekeeping in Spain.)
Sometimes, it was hard because I would get distracted about what was going on at home, and internships, and even thinking to how busy I would be this fall at Colgate. Going to college and growing up as a millennial, we are primed to over-think and do a thousand things at once, or else we aren’t really working. Being abroad was unique, because, unlike the harrowing process of travel, when you’re actually abroad, it’s more fun to just live in the moment. So what if you miss your friends, or your campus, or are distracted by 1,001 other things? Being fully present and learning about your surroundings is one of the most important things you can and should do when you’re somewhere new. There was a saying Spaniards threw around to me when I was there, and there’s nothing quite the same in English: “hay que aprovechar.” You can dice it however you want, but to sum up my experiences abroad, it means, take advantage of where you are and enjoy! And that’s exactly what I did. While I may not walk down those cobblestone streets within the next year, I most certainly plan on going back.
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<p>Hi! I’m a junior attending Colgate University. I’m majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish – I practice it whenever I can! As a multicultural student (half black and half Italian), I consider myself a city girl and am drawn to vibrant, diverse areas. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, traveling, going to the beach, and watching or playing sports. I can’t wait to head to Salamanca, sharpen up my Spanish and share my adventures!</p>