Assimilating To Life In Spain

This weekend I returned to one of my favorite cities in the world, Sevilla.  Sevilla is in the Andalusia region of Spain and is full of incredible and colorful architecture.  The buildings are full of colorful ceramic tiles that add a beautiful feature to the architecture.  My favorite spot is the Plaza de España that has a beautiful, ginormous building full of ceramic tiles, a canal that you can take little boats into, and other beautiful sights.  We also went to the Catedral de Sevilla, but this time not for the architecture or history.  The Saturday that we were there was the day of the wedding of the captain of Real Madrid that was at the Cathedral.  Because of this, the streets surrounding the cathedral were lined with people waiting to see the celebrity guests that would be attending.  We sadly missed Shakira and Marc Anthony; however, we did see David and Victoria Beckham which was pretty cool.  We planned the entire weekend in Sevilla by ourselves, making it a perfect example of one of the most intense aspects of assimilating to the my time in Spain – independence.

Throughout my life, I have been incredibly lucky to be exposed to a myriad of different traveling opportunities that have required their own unique forms of assimilation.  To be honest, I expected the transition to life in Madrid to be really easy, as I have been to Spain once before and I have a lot of experience with assimilating to different cultures.  However, I quickly learned that I was wrong.  My past travels have mainly been with groups of students with instructors on a program.  In Madrid, I am with students and on a program; however, I have much more independence than ever before.  Living in a homestay and having my own work and schedule makes this truly like an experience of living in a foreign country, not traveling throughout different parts of it. I am responsible for the entirety of my free time and any extra traveling that I want to do.  At first I found myself spending going straight home after work because it was comfortable and a place I knew to go to.  But the problem was that once I was at home, it was really hard to force myself to leave again.  So now, in order to make the  most out of my time here, I bring everything I may need for the day to work so that I can walk around, go to the park, or a new café.  This has helped me to learn how to fill my free time and assimilate to this next level of independence.

Unsurprisingly, the transition to a life that is mostly in another language has also been a challenge. During the days, my only source of English is my cell phone or friends from the program, meaning that I spend about 90-95% of my day in a foreign language.  At first, this complete Spanish immersion was a lot to handle, especially due to that fact that my mind kept blanking every time I tried to speak the language.  At the beginning, I was so overwhelmed by starting my first internship and adjusting to life here that my mind couldn’t focus on the language like it needed to; however, now that I have gained more confidence in my work and homestay it has become a lot better.  I have even caught myself thinking or Spanish or casually understanding people on the street with no intent listening needed, which have been really cool realizations.

The final most difficult transition for me involves my homestay.  My homestay mom, Amparo, is very nice; however, she is also very particular in how her home is run.  Certain windows must be open and others shut, there are 4 different trash cans each with their own criteria for what goes into them, my light must be off at all times even when I am just running to fill up my water in the kitchen.  These expectations all involve a consciousness to the environment, which is something that I love; however, some actions (like leaving my light on to run down the hall) are so natural to me that it is difficult to keep up.  I always feel bad when she reminds me of little things because I understand her reasons, I just simply have not fully forced myself out of my habits from home. Like the other forms of assimilation, this has gotten a lot easier as I have made habits in this home and adjusted to this environment.

Overall, I am proud of the ways that I have learned to realize that assimilation is needed and to act on those realizations.  I believe that my experience in Madrid has improved dramatically because I have been able to adjust to the culture and different ways of life here.  I am excited to see how it continues to improve and what other adjustments I will learn/make along the way.