When people talk about their abroad experiences, they always tell you about the amazing clubs they went to, and the food they ate, and the crazy time they did that one thing that changed their life. They never tell you about the hard parts, the late-night cries, the culture shock and the homesickness. I only travel home from school for the summer and for winter break so I know what it takes to be away from my home for so long, but my experience abroad has been unique. Once the “honeymoon” phase ended and reality set in that I would be here until December, I had a little bit of a reality check.
Speaking Spanish 24/7 has definitely helped my skills, but it’s been extremely exhausting. There is hardly ever a time where I don’t have to really think about what I am going to say, and that can be draining. Living with a host family has also been a big adjustment. You are meant to be a part of the family and feel at home, but you’re also still a guest in someone else’s house. I feel like sometimes there is a lot of gray area, and it is taking time to set boundaries and figure out my host family’s routine. On top of the normal adjustment period, my host father is also very sick with a number of ailments, so it has been an added challenge of trying not to feel like I am imposing on his space in any way.
I also have really started to miss the luxuries that we take for granted in the United States. Europeans don’t feel the need to have over-the-top homes or live extravagantly. I have everything I could ever need and more here, but I do notice things that are very different from home. My shower here is the size of a roomy coffin, I almost roll out of my European twin bed every night, and energy and water are more expensive so that means shorter showers, fluorescent light bulbs, and no air conditioning. I feel so spoiled for even noticing things like this, but it’s the little things that have me realizing how Americans really do live in the mindset of constantly wanting everything to be bigger and better, and whether I like it or not, it’s what I’m used to.
During the week of August 21st, I really started to question my choice in coming here and had a few sleepless nights where I absolutely wanted to go home, but things have gotten a lot better. My host mom’s daughters and granddaughters were all visiting and the house was full of dancing, singing, and fun, which reminded me a lot of my big Mexican family! The granddaughters are 11 and 5, and their constant energy definitely lifted my spirits.
On August 26 we went to Ronda, where we saw Spain’s oldest bullfighting ring as well as the gorgeous landscape of the countryside. We walked over the New Bridge which helps locals and tourists alike cross the canyon that divides the town, and we ate lunch at a restaurant that is carved into the side of the canyon. It was insanely hot and we climbed what felt like a million stairs, but definitely worth it.
After returning from Ronda, we went out to the clubs for the first night! We had so much fun, and my phone told us we clocked in over 10,000 steps dancing. The crazy thing is that it’s so normal not to get home anytime before 5 in the morning. The next day, I woke up thinking it was 10 a.m., maybe 11 a.m. but it was 3 in the afternoon. I have never slept so late in my entire life. The funny thing was that when I finally went into the kitchen, my host mom was surprised that I was even awake. She told me she wouldn’t have thought twice if I would have woken up until 6 p.m. The Spaniards do it big.
Most important of all, I started classes! Since my last post, I started and finished a two-week Spanish intensive class with the other Dickinson students on my program. Class started at 9 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m. at the Centro Internacional de Español, which is a smaller campus of the Universidad de Málaga and is about a 10-minute walk from my house. In the mornings, we would do two hours of grammar and in the afternoon, we would work on reading comprehension, speaking skills, and listening skills. I definitely enjoyed the afternoon sessions more because our professor would let us decide what we wanted to talk about that day. We would learn about topics like the current Spanish monarchy, famous bullfighters, Spanish festivals, and other interesting things that a textbook doesn’t necessarily teach you. Starting on September 4, I start another two-week intensive with other international students in a higher level, so we’ll see how that goes.
The last big thing that happened was that I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark! I am going to write an entirely separate post about my whirlwind weekend trip, but I absolutely fell in love with Cope. The Danish lifestyle is so fascinating to me, and I absolutely plan on returning one day. Two of my closest friends are studying abroad for the semester there, so getting to see them gave me the boost I needed to keep on keeping on! It is so surreal seeing the people I love so much in such beautiful new places. September is going to be a busy month, so I’m happy to be in Málaga during the week to get a routine going and maybe enjoy a few beach days after class!
Mandando todo mi amor desde Málaga!