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Transitioning from Newbie to Native (More or Less)

A pic of me on a side trip to Morocco and the Sahara Desert!

Let’s be real: there’s a honeymoon phase to almost any new thing we do. Whether that’s starting a new job, new school, new hobby, or making new friends, there comes a point when you see the activities or the people for what/who they really are. You may still enjoy it, but you begin to know the true depth, see the flaws, and generally have a deeper understanding of reality as you become more accustomed and comfortable in that environment or with those people. I have definitely noticed a similar trend with studying abroad.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and for me, I even welcome it by embracing the sometimes uncomfortableness of the situation. When you reach this point, it is when you really begin to learn the culture and experience something new and beautiful.

For me, this process took over a month. I can’t pinpoint an exact day since it’s so gradual. But I do know that today, compared to when I first arrived in Spain, I am much more comfortable and feel like I blend in (most of the time) to the natives around me. Here is a simple example of when I first noticed this change:

In the busier, more crowded areas of Granada there are typically people stopping others to take a survey, sell a service or product, etc. They usually only target Spaniards, so it’s safe to say I wasn’t called out during my first month here as I probably looked so lost. However, one day a man stopped me in the street, and said (in Spanish), “Is your family missing?” There was definitely something lost in translation (because what I thought I heard could not have been correct…I still have a lot of Spanish to learn) and I repeated back to him with surprise what I thought he asked and he quickly said in English, “Oh, you’re not from Spain?” I replied that I was from the United States and he apologized for stopping me and moved on without a second thought. I, however, was so honored! It was so simple and kind of silly, but I was so proud that someone thought I was a local. Usually being stopped like that by people of the street would bother me, but in Spain it means that I come off as one of their own. I feel that in myself, as well. I am so much more comfortable here than I was at the beginning: I walk more relaxed and continually feel more at home.

Hiking in Alpujarra, Spain. If you look very closely you can see the Mediterranean Sea between the mountains.

As I have mentioned in past posts, I love traveling. But this is more than traveling- it is a learning experience. I learn more about the culture, the people, the history, and myself every day. It’s not all pretty, but it is the reality and that’s what I want to know. I don’t want a sugar-coated semester: I want raw and real. I want to understand the economic crisis of Spain and how that is making it difficult for Spaniards, especially young people, to find secure jobs, forcing them to live with their parents until they are 25-30 years old, for example.

But at the same time, I have loved learning about the good things that this country has to offer. Like the fact that most students pay less than $1,000 for college per YEAR as opposed to universities in the United States costing anywhere from $10,000-$60,000 per year, causing most students to be in extreme debt. The government of Spain understands the importance of education and it shows in the prices of attending university. Spain’s education system and general economy may have its own flaws (for example, the reason that college is so “inexpensive” is because taxes are much higher), but at least it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg outright to attend college. It’s all much more complicated than I know, but that’s pretty incredible.

There is so much more I could discuss regarding the culture and the people. It’s an intricate and complex country with a lot of history and depth. And I haven’t even mentioned what I have learned about myself and my own beliefs by being immersed in this culture. There are still things that I have discovered but haven’t fully grasped and can’t articulate quite yet. I don’t think it will be until I return home and have time to process the semester in its entirety that I will understand how this semester has impacted me. I am looking forward to those realizations, because I’m sure this time has affected me in more ways than I know.

Thank you, Spain (and all other countries I have been fortunate to travel to this semester), for welcoming me, teaching me, and showing me all that you have to offer.

The mosque of Cordoba (now a Catholic church).
La Plaza de España (The Plaza of Spain). A few scenes from Star Wars were filmed here!

Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the Fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Volubilis

It was a rough ride on the bus, as hardly any of the roads are paved here, but I could not sit still for this particular bus ride anyway. My heart skipped a beat as I had finally stepped foot on to my first site of Roman Ruins. Right here in Morocco! We all know the greatness of what the Roman empire used to be but who would have thought, they too, were also in Morocco.

The city of Volubilis is over 2000 years old. Ancient history is my kind of thing, so of course, I wandered away from the group and tour guide. I got to see parts of the city the group didn’t get to and I don’t regret it! A slab of floor to what used to be a common place for people to gather and tell stories STILL had all the labors of Hercules intact, and in color. Running like a child with too much excitement I couldn’t help but believe I was touching and feeling all the columns and stones and carvings that the Romans created all those years ago. Some stones have a sea shell to represent Venus (Aphrodite in Greek). There were alters for Diane (goddess of the hunt) with the writing still on them! You could feel yourself step back in time and just imagine the everyday life in how fabulous this city used to be, and to me, still is.

The best part? Volubilis is only partly excavated. They say there are still many parts of the land to dig into, and our tour guide even said they are waiting for the day they find the Colosseum of the city.

It was in the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD that Volubilis became a flourishing center of the late Hellenistic culture. Annexed to Rome about AD 44, as a reward for supporting Rome during the revolt of Aedmon; Volubilis was made a municipium. (This means the people here had partial Roman citizenship.) This city became the head inland of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana. In the end, the town was deserted (in 285AD) when Diocletian reorganized it. In Arabic, the providence was known as Oulili or Walila. Volubilis then became the capital of Idris, within the Idrisid dynasty, after 788AD.

As my feet touched ground here and my hands touched the floor of the labors of Hercules, I could feel the carvings in the alters for Diane. I walked through what used to be a Pagan church. I sat down where animal sacrifices used to be made. I climbed the steps to overlook the town as the political officials used to do there. I walked through and discovered the origin of the steam bath, which are culturally known as Hammam baths. Overall, I was so thankful and heartfelt for this experience, that a single tear fell down the right side of my face.

Leaning up against the ancient wall near what seemed to be the old exit from the town, I raised my right hand to brush back my hair. A piece of the ancient wall chipped off of the stone and onto my knuckles. I took it as a sign.

And I will keep this piece of Volubilis with me, forever.

I’m sure it will last another 2000 years.

Kaylee at the Ancient Roman Ruins of Volubilis. Located in Morocco

Kaylee Tindle is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is studying International Relations with a minor in Arabic. Kaylee will spend the semester abroad with the ISA Meknes, Morocco: Language, Culture and Society program. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Kaylee is a United Sates Army veteran having served as a Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist. Although her service in the military has ended, Kaylee still plans to serve the United States of America through the world of politics.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

From Soldier To Student

Being used to traveling all over the world, experiencing new cultures and ways of life hasn’t been too much of a challenge for me. From the barracks in the desert of Kuwait, to living in South Korea, and even experiencing life in Japan I would say the hardest culture shock was coming from active duty Army, most of my adult life thus far, to a full-time student who will be utilizing her knowledge and language skills abroad.

As a student who is learning the language of Arabic, I have chosen this path for personal, and professional reasonings. Along with my minor in Arabic I will be studying International Relations in the country of Morocco. This is a place I never thought I would be going to in-order to start utilizing my skills. There are magical places in the country I never thought I would have the opportunity to touch ground on. I have ISA and UMKC to thank for opening this door for me. With every new culture experience; I have been brought down to the earth further and more so recognized her people in all aspects of their lives and as I walk through the threshold and into the magical journey of my semester in Morocco, I will no longer land in combat boots, but in my everyday shoes. Ready to explore, and ready to learn.

The knowledge I will acquire will only be the beginning of what will be setting the rest of my life. From soldier to student, I will represent UMKC, ISA, and my country of USA with honor. Follow me on my journey, through my blog posts! As I love to share my experiences.

And so, until I return.

So long!

سنشتاق إليك

(sanashtaq ‘iilyka!)

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Kaylee Tindle is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is studying International Relations with a minor in Arabic. Kaylee will spend the semester abroad with the ISA Meknes, Morocco: Language, Culture and Society program. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Kaylee is a United Sates Army veteran having served as a Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist. Although her service in the military has ended, Kaylee still plans to serve the United States of America through the world of politics.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

في الحقيقة

I had a pretty rosy picture of life abroad before I came here. And for the first few weeks, my experiences met and even surpassed my exceptions. I have traveled, my new home is large and modern, I have made great friends with the other students, and of course, I am surrounded by this intense and beautiful country.

 

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Unlike most college students, I am used to moving and living in new environments –  I have lived in 4 states in the past three years prior to studying abroad. And so, I thought this experience would be very easy for me, especially because I have the wonderful support of the ISA staff.

I have now spent almost two full months in my host country, and I have officially hit the middle point of  my study abroad experience – it feels kind of like a vacation that has lasted too long, or like a forced relocation that I wasn’t quite prepared for..

The strange and intense culture shock that I had so looked forward to before coming is now becoming the daily challenge. I am realizing how dependent I am on American culture norms. Little things like the concept of a Barnes and Noble is so tragically funny to reminisce on as I walk past the male dominated cafes from which I can never receive a wifi signal anyways. Feeling sick suddenly becomes a big deal when I can’t see a doctor without the assistance of a local.

Through these challenges, I am learning about my own vulnerability and areas in need of growth. Someone famous once said that it is neither the beginning nor end that is the hardest, but the middle. Though I have reached this point, I still find joy in my host country. I have received amazing kindness from both Americans and Moroccans while here, and the beauty consistently my favorite feature of Morocco.

في الحقيقة (fi alhqiiqa) means in reality in Arabic. I’m realizing the reality of being an American studying abroad in Morocco – for me, right now, it isn’t quite as sweet as the traditional mint tea, or the dreams I had before I got on the plane.