Some of you may be asking: So what’s it like to be an American abroad? Or you just want to see pretty pictures from my travels. Before our departure, we were told that many students abroad can feel like the unofficial ambassador from the U.S. (Adding to my list of internships). Some of these conversations can get really serious, really fast and some are just hilarious. For your enjoyment, I have compiled a list of the great questions and comments I have received in my seven weeks in Spain.
Was your high school like Mean Girls?
Wow, interesting. I personally love this movie and Tina Fey. I was able to confidently say that I had a great group of friends in high school and I am still friends with many of them. I did have to admit that there were some awful catty moments in middle school, but no one got hit by a bus and there is no burn book to my knowledge.
Do all Americans live in houses?
I guess lots of American movies show that Americans have large homes? I informed the little kid who asked me this that my family lives in a single family house, but I know plenty of families in apartments and townhomes in the city and in my suburb.
What do you think of Donald Trump?
AAAAAAHHHH. The honest answer is that sometimes I look on Twitter and feel like my country is on fire. In Spain, political conversations and questions are not taboo at all (even at work)! It is perfectly ok to ask about someone’s political views directly and proceed to agree or not. This cultural difference brings for some interesting discussions of what many people abroad think of Donald Trump. I’m telling you right now, I have not had a single Spaniard who has had a positive view of his presidency or policies. Since you can talk politics, I state my views and do not fear judgment.
(After I stated that gazpacho (cold veggie soup) is not my favorite)—Well, warm tomato soup and grilled cheese is super weird to us.
One of the best things about being abroad is you learn that your norms are formed from your culture and family. To be honest, I don’t really love tomato soup either, but I never questioned that it should be warm and served with grilled cheese. If you grow up with something, it is normal. Cultural understanding, woah mind blown!
Do Americans eat a lot of junk food? Like more than the Spanish?
Well considering I get served potato chips when I buy a beer or wine at a bar, I’d say you can easily find junk food in Madrid if you seek it out. Burger King and McDonald’s have made it all around the world, so many Spanish view them as American institutions. I pass many burger restaurants as well as some classic Spanish restaurants on my way to work. The Spanish love their potatoes and sometimes they can come in the form of a French fry (my most favorite form). I do think that sometimes Spanish junk food has less preservatives or chemicals. Some restaurants freshly cut French fries or chips and have organic meats for the burgers. Also, people look at ingredients and note that use of palm oil. The process of extracting the oil hurts the environment and workers; people in my office take that seriously.
The thing that scared me most during my year of high school in America was armed intruder drills.
Obviously, the terror situation in Europe is scary. There have been many attacks this summer, but I still go out and enjoy this beautiful European city. Yet, even with these uncertain times, I do not see much panic from people in Madrid. There are armed police in some major plazas and people are simply enjoying their Saturday lunches. Since I was only 5 when 9/11 occurred, I always thought it was normal to have armed intruder drills for safety. This comment progressed into a conversation about the second amendment, which was super interesting to have with my co-workers. Comments from outsiders make me think harder and question some of my own opinions about terrorism and gun ownership.
I’m sure my co-workers have a list of weird questions and comments from American interns. Studying abroad makes you a stereotype myth-buster sometimes!
This weekend I’ll be traveling to Granada to visit the Alhambra. This has been a dream trip for me for some time! It will be 101°F in Granada, so I will let you know if I make it out alive.