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Home Sweet Home?

I was terribly excited to be heading home a couple of weeks ago. My own food, bed, seeing my family and pets, I was thrilled. Then after finally making it home, I ran into glitches. I was grouchy for the entire first week and even though I had to pick up all of my responsibilities immediately, such as preparing for the fall semester, it hasn’t been until recently that I don’t resent those responsibilities and I feel at home again. After all of this my mom was curious if travelling to Spain was worth all of the frustration of travelling and the culture shock(s). After considering her question, I definitely feel that Spain was more than worth those frustrations. It is important to not let those get so big that they overwhelm you and take away from an amazing experience. I do feel like I have changed and become more aware of other lifestyles outside of the U.S. and I would not give that up for anything, not even the chance to avoid airlines and their inherent craziness (they accidentally cancelled my return tickets!).

 

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Salmorejo y pan con tomate

Bringing a little bit of Spanish food home with me

Adiós

It’s here, the final week that I’ve both yearned for and dreaded. With my finals completed and goodbyes in order, I have been able to finally 100% focus on being a “tourist” in Spain. I’ve explored Los Cahorros in Monachil and I am currently in Barcelona. Everywhere we go we are able to practice our Spanish. The study abroad program gave us a strong base for us to build our language skills on, I only wish I had more time to practice my Spanish in Spain. This trip has had a lot of highs and lows as I adjusted to a new culture and style of life, but I know for a fact that I don’t regret my choice of this program and would make the same decision again. Adiós España.

11707605_10153554759778293_1493399050482339437_nTapas in Barcelona

11705262_1172307352785623_4826714195197457379_nHanging bridge in Los Cahorros

 

 

Calm before the Storm

This is my last complete week in Spain. The time has flown by and classes are almost over. I’ve already had to start saying goodbye to friends and I have begun to realize how much I have enjoyed my time here. Everything is such a whirlwind at first with traveling and meeting new families. It’s just now that we are capable of having true conversations that range from environmental problems to the lifestyles of Americans vs Spaniards. I have gotten into the flow of life here and have grown to appreciate the beauty of the desert-like environment even though I prefer the green forests of Missouri. I have learned that here everything passes so quickly and that it is important to force yourself to take a moment and contemplate the experiences you have undergone while in your new country.

11800455_1172309842785374_5097384711991340593_nView of Granada from the Sierra Nevada

 

Creating Connections

In my mind I pictured myself in Spain striking up conversations with numerous native speakers and quickly becoming fluent in Spanish. By the time week four rolled around, I realized that wasn’t the case. I was frustrated and irritated by classes for taking up my time. I stopped and took a minute to think about how to meet more people and then I came to the conclusion that I should do it the same way I do in the United States. When I’m in the U.S. I attend more classes, work, and do things I enjoy. I do this through time management and actively seeking out opportunities. It was time to take the initiative and quit waiting for opportunities to find me. One of the best decisions I have made in Spain is joining the O2 Gym near my house. Not only did I get in better shape, I also met tons of people. You don’t realize how many conversations you have just bumping into people at the gym or taking a class every week with the same people. It’s a great way to practice normal everyday conversations outside of an academic or touristy setting. It’s also a great place to make friends and learn more about the culture of Spain since you are in a space that does not typically have tourists. I may not be fluent yet, but I’m much better than when I first arrived in Spain thanks to the gym.

 

11822445_1170530129630012_6981359324650742189_nCrosstraining Coach- Suso

The “Study” part of Study Abroad

After two weeks of nonstop traveling, school started and so did the homework unfortunately. The classes were interesting and it was great fun to try and translate/understand the Spanish professors in my classes, such as the history of Hispanoamerica and the history of España. As much as I enjoyed this though, it was still a bit rough to have to dig in and start. I had been eating tapas and exploring to my heart’s content when all of a sudden I lost most of my free time. Classes were from 10:50am to 6:15pm Monday-Friday. I resented having to take four classes with mostly American students. I wanted to interact with people from Spain.

 

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That’s when I realized I could use an attitude adjustment. Yes it was hard to balance school and exploration, but the classes helped me to know how to interact with people from Spain, what their customs were, what was considered polite, and what was not polite. It allowed me to understand the people more. I felt myself growing to appreciate Spain and it’s culture as I learned about the people, and not only the people, but also about the historical places. Elaborate churches that were in my mind just fancy churches took on new life; I saw the struggle of the people in Spain to create beauty during times of turmoil. I stopped seeing Spain’s historical places as a cool place to take selfies and started seeing them as a reflection of the development of Spanish culture, all thanks to those frustrating classes. So in the end, even though I still don’t like homework, I don’t resent my classes anymore.

 

 

Exploring España

We have traveled to numerous places this week, including Sevilla, Cordoba, and around Granada. One of the most fascinating things I have encountered is the numerous cultures  found in these cities and the distinct personalities each city had. For example, Cordoba has a very strong Islamic influence on the architecture of the buildings and has a more sprawling city. Sevilla, in contrast, had a stronger Catholic influence on the architecture and it was a compact city. We walked everywhere, which was an amazing opportunity to observe the different subcultures. We saw everything from the 90s grunge trends to high fashion. We watched street dancing, a belly dancer, and flamenco on the streets in the evening. It was also fun to explore Sevilla since we are from its sister city, Kansas City, MO. There was parallel architecture and even a Starbucks (definitely historically relevant)! After travelling through these cities we returned to Granada to settle in for the next few weeks. We began exploring magnificent places such as La Alhambra and the Federico Garcia Lorca Park. As time passes the true Granada becomes more apparent, as I begin to see the city through the eyes of my host family.

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Sevilla. I highly suggest a carriage ride, it’s a great way to see the city and hear its history from a local. Plus you can practice your Spanish!

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The Generalife gardens at La Alhambra in Granada

 

Aimless Wandering

It was a crazy trip to Madrid, as we were re-routed through Ireland. It was a great experience though as we had Irish beer for breakfast, a first for me! Normally I am a planner, I enjoy mapping out the details of my trips. However, we (Samantha and I) decided to go with the flow. It was a great idea. Going with the flow allowed us to meander through Madrid and to stumble upon some exciting opportunities we would have missed had we been following a strict itinerary. For example, we were invited to dance with a traditional dance group in the street, the music was lively and the people a blast to learn from, even with difficulty in translating some things. We also still managed to visit the major attractions such as the Prado Museum, Retiro Park, and the Real Botanical Gardens, all with relatively little stress and at a low cost. Flexibility has been one concept that has really allowed us to enjoy our time in a different country, by being flexible and making few plans we have been able to enjoy a wide range of cultural activities in a short amount of time. It’s unbelievable how much you learn  when walking through the streets of a foreign city. You see so many different customs and new cultures, but  you aren’t able to process it until later when have some time to breathe. It’s a completely different experience!

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Last Minute Fires

In two days time I will be on my first plane ride since the summer before 6th grade! I waffle between being thrilled and being terrified of somehow violating the TSA regulations. I honestly thought I was fairly prepared for this trip but as the date looms closer I realize that there is still so much to be done and set in motion for Spain! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m terribly excited to go and can’t wait to test out my Spanish and navigation skills in Madrid, as well as meet some amazing people. Pretty soon I will be writing from Granada, sharing some hopefully great experiences!