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The Best and Worst Adjustments to Studying Abroad

March 27, 2016

ISEP student Jessica J. is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is a Spanish literature, culture and translation major from Kent State University, and is currently studying abroad at Universidad de Almería in Spain.

Overlooking the Spanish harbor
Overlooking the Spanish harbor

I have officially been abroad in Spain for one month!

The good news: I’m loving it here!

The bad news: I also have my moments where I crave American soil, not enough to miss home, but enough to notice.

Spain is extremely different than the United States. The entire demeanor is different. Americans are always stressed out, and we are always in a hurry. We take 45 minutes to eat dinner in a restaurant, we huff and puff if our appointment is running late, we need to be at our destination at the exact moment we want to be and we cannot live without cellphones. In Spain, everything happens in slow motion.

Fresh orange trees
Fresh orange trees

If you are going out to dinner, expect to be there for an hour and a half minimum. If you have an appointment, expect to be in said appointment for three hours because the man you’re meeting with will have a short attention span and keep getting up mid- conversation to go chat with his friends (yes, it happened to me… or maybe I’m just boring). If you don’t have a car, expect to take the bus, and when you take said bus expect to ride it for at least 30 minutes before you reach your destination. You can’t drink the water, so you’ll need to buy gigantic jugs of water to last the week. They don’t put tomato sauce on pizza. Meetings never start on time. Professors show up to class 15 (or more) minutes late.

Everything is more carefree. I’m always hearing, no pase nada, no te preocupes (dont worry). It is such a change from life in the U.S. I love it, but I struggle with accepting it. I am so used to being on a strict time schedule back home, and here, things happen when they happen.

Spain also closes everything between the hours of 2-5 p.m. for businesses and 5-8 p.m. for restaurants for a siesta. This means no grocery stores, no running buses, no restaurants, no banks and more. It may not seem like it, but it is a big hassle. Well, maybe not a hassle, but definitely a change in culture that takes some getting used to.

Simple things like this are wonderful, but can also be a pain.

Barren Roads: Yay for low pollution!
Barren Roads: Yay for low pollution!

In Spain, or at least in Almeria, there are not many cars. Almost everyone walks or rides the bus. From what I’ve noticed, those who do drive cannot follow traffic rules for the life of them. They drive like madmen, like New Yorkers, but in a much more beautiful place.

In the United States we have Mexican and Spanish restaurants, and here in Almeria they have some American chains and knockoffs as well. It is pretty hilarious to walk down the street and pass a Burger King, McDonald’s or Domino’s Pizza (all delivered on motorized scooters). Ahhhh ‘Murica.

Colors everywhere.
Colors everywhere.

Spain is beautiful, there is absolutely no doubt about that. When I walk around the city, or when I walk along the beach, I feel alive. I feel free. Everything is so colorful and refreshing. Fact: Colors improve your mood (so does seeing fresh orange trees as you walk down the main road). And I mean yeah, living next to the beach probably helps.

It’s like living in a fantasy world, and I cannot believe that I am lucky enough to be able to have an opportunity like this.

So, with my ever-increasing sense of wonder, I am going to take advantage of my wonderful fortune and continue taking on the world, one step at a time. Get ready world, I’m coming for you.

Hasta luego!

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