Challenges and Travels

Hello again so this is my fourth week in Spain and I feel like it is going way to quickly. I think I am going to blink my eyes and my program will be over and I will be going back home to start my senior year. This last weekend I traveled to Morocco with BeMadrid which is a student oriented travel company in Madrid. It was truly an incredible experience getting delve into a completely different culture even if it was only for a few days. One of the coolest parts of this trip was taking the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar. On the way back I had a real reflective moment where I could almost feel the history of the place. Is that a little cheesy? I think that might be a bit cheesy. But that was one of my favorite parts of the trip. One of the other things I found fascinating was the similarities between Moroccan culture and Spanish culture as well most people where we visited in Morocco spoke Spanish. The last important thing that happened was that one of the other girls on the trip introduced my to chile doritos and my life as been changed forever.

I am also getting really excited because in two weekends I will be traveling to Barcelona for the weekend! I am meeting up with two of my friends from Pitt who are studying in Vienna and I get to show them around my 2nd City. I studied abroad in Barcelona 2 years ago and absolutely fell in love with the city. I have started to make a plan for the whole trip which I am sure will be thrown out after about a half hour but still I am incredibly excited to return to my first European city. I actually got a really notification on Facebook today that exactly two years ago I was at Newark airport about to fly to Barcelona. I feel like I have come so far since then.

The first time I studied abroad I had a wonderful time, but I also struggled a lot. I am generally I very shy person who struggles to put myself out there. I really struggle with putting myself in situations where I might look stupid or where I might embarrass myself or annoy others. This means going to another country where they speak a different language than me was REALLY challenging. I struggled going to restaurants and doing basic everyday things and sometimes all I did was hangout in my room all day without leaving because that seemed easier. However I know realized I learned a lot from that experience and having gone through what I did has prepared me to adapt this time around a lot easier than the first. I still think one of the hardest things to adapt to is the culture around food and I know I have mentioned this before but it is probably the thing I struggle most with. The when, where, how and what of Spanish food culture is challenging. They tend to eat two small breakfasts, a large lunch, and then snacks or tapas for a very late dinner. It is also very common for people to go out to restaurant around lunch or any time of the day just to tomar un cafe o un cerveza. The first week we were here we would joke that there was rarely ever food on tables in restaurants. It is really uncomfortable to be the only one in a restaurant eating food because you are eating too early because they don’t eat lunch until 2 or 3 or because the place you choose by chance is actually more of a cafe than a restaurant. My host mom also does not usually fix dinner until 9 so I usually find myself pretty hungry between lunch and dinner if I don’t find a snack.

Some so the ways I have been approaching this is preparation. Most days during my break at work I will find a place online to eat before going. This helps me to ensure the food will be good and affordable and it will be more of a restaurant as opposed to a cafe. As well I usually go for a menu de dia between 10 and 13 Euro. Anything below that tends to not be as good and anything above is to expensive. As well I try to scope out the place before I go inside to make sure people are eating food and not just drinking coffee or beer. I also scope out place while I wander around the city and mark them in my phone as places to return to. I try to avoid aimlessly wandering and looking for a restaurant because that is how I have struggled in the past however if a place falls through I will wander around a bit before I come up with a new game plan. I also try to switch up by going to the grocery store every once in a while to grab things for a simple picnic like bread, fruit, cheese, una bocadilla, and/or a pastry. I also have been slowly making way through Madrid’s sweets and pastry shops for a mid-afternoon snack to last me to dinner. Overall I am really proud of my ability to overcome some of these issues and it has really contributed to my quality of life here in Spain. I really don’t want this trip to end!