I am HOME!!
Wahoo! Back to the land of air conditioning, driving my car, and the English language. 🙂
The last 6 weeks have been a blast and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to study abroad and travel so many new and beautiful places. Thank you family and friends for encouraging me/thinking of me while I was gone and taking an interest in my adventures. Also, I should probably thank you all for scrolling through my 800 Facebook pictures and my mile-long blog posts.
Along with you all, I feel I should also thank the four items that have been my constant companions during this trip. 😉
This picture captures how I looked just about every day carrying all my stuff (sans the Nike shorts because ya know #tryingtolookhalfwayEuropean) I normally dressed up more.
First of all, shoutout to my Birkenstocks which I wore almost every day, all day- they deserve an award and a shower and a passport type stamp for all the places they took me.
Next, my beloved Camelbak which is already attached to me as a fifth limb when I am home, so it was even more so in blazing hot Europe as I was walking 8 miles a day. At this point, I should be featured in a Camelbak ad considering all of the adventurous places it’s been. 🌟
Third, my camera and camera bag were constantly in my hand/on my shoulder. I think this took my “mom persona” to the maximum level but hey I can’t drag my Birkenstocks and Camelbak all of those cool places and not take photo evidence that I was there. 😉 Seriously this camera is the best purchase I’ve ever made and I am so glad I had it with me at all times even if my shoulder did occasionally go numb from the weight of it.
And finally, I would like to give a big thank you to my theft-proof purse complete with locks and fancy hidden interior pockets that I ordered from Amazon 4 days before I left. I was honestly dreading using it because #tackytourist but it is actually the best thing I have ever used/I highly recommend it. I kind of want to use it as my real purse now because it is the perfect size and has the best pockets. And nothing was stolen from my bag so that is clearly the best part!
Before I end, I want to share a few things I learned while I was gone:
- I walked into this experience thinking I would leave Spain close to fluent in Spanish because I would be forced to communicate in only Spanish, thus making me have to figure it out. While I definitely had to primarily communicate in Spanish, I am in no way fluent haha. I realize now that it will take a lot more studying and a significant amount of time abroad (like a a semester) to really grasp the language. So it was a nice thought, but no fluency for me. However, I can definitely speak enough to get around and order at a restaurant and ask for a cab/give directions and carry on basic conversation. Looking back to the first day of school in August when I walked into my very first Spanish class ever and seriously only knew what I like to call “Dora Spanish”- (the Spanish I learned on the Dora TV show) which was basically numbers 1-10, some colors, hola/adios, gracias/de nada, and maybe “muy bien!” I have come a loooonnnggg way. I can read and write Spanish well, my listening comprehension has significantly improved (thank you Maribel) but it is the on the spot thinking of “okay I need to say this, but do I know all those words/ the right order to say them in?” that trips me up. The verb conjugation is kind of complicated because it changes with the tense and who you are talking to and there are ALL sorts of irregulars that you have to remember. 😜 For me, it is hard because the words don’t just roll off my tongue and I have to sit and think a second about what I am trying to say. But, I have greatly improved from where I began!
- My apologies for being completely uncultured but up until a few months before I left for this trip, I really thought Spain was very similar to Mexico/Latin America and that they ate tacos and beans and all that. Well I was very wrong! Spain is very independent of that culture. From the food, to the dress, to the housing, etc, Spain is heavily European and all they really have in common with Mexico/Latin America is siesta time and the foundation of the language. The Spanish have different words they use (so basically a variation of terms due to location kind of like you would find here in the US with differences in the North/south) than Latin America. It was interesting/difficult because my textbook taught more to the Latin American Spanish side than Spain side. So at home, Ashley and I would use some vocabulary that our textbook had taught us but Maribel would just took at us like we were crazy because she was not familiar with that term. For instance, we were taught that “to walk” is “caminar” but they use the word “andar”. Vice versa, she would use a word that we had never heard and so we would just stare at her and then the very slow speaking and hand gestures would begin. And if that didn’t work, out came Google translate haha. Also, it is difficult to explain, but the Spanish speak with a lisp on certain words- usually ones that have a “th” at the beginning or end. I thought this made them really hard to understand! In return, they found it hard to understand us because we didn’t use a lisp so the word didn’t sound familiar to them.
- I will admit I am someone who loves to have a plan and know what is expected of me/what to expect out of a situation, and have some control over what is happened around me. Well the best way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and not have control over any situation is to study abroad haha!! It has been really good for me to learn to be really flexible and go with the flow and let go of control. At times it felt like we were on a vacation trip, but this was definitely not vacation. I basically immersed myself in Spanish culture as a student for a month and with that came adapting to their world. For example, they have a strange time table/eating schedule and that proved to be one of the biggest adjustments for me. If I would have been on vacation with my family, we probably would have stuck to a more normal eating/bed schedule- still can’t get over how late their nights are haha! But I didn’t really have that option and just went with it! At home, I am ready to wrap things up and settle in for the night at 10:30 or 11 but here that is prime time. We would finish dinner at 10:30 and then sometimes have an activity or something that would keep us out until late. I got home at 2:45 the other night (morning, night whatever) and Maribel, our 65 year old host mom was just getting home too from dinner/an outing with her friends. What!? Just so different. But their pace of life is a lot slower- I didn’t ever feel the “hurry up” urgency that we definitely have in the States. In both Italy and Spain, dinner can last like 2 hours or more, just because they eat multiple courses slowly and then linger to talk.
- Another flexibility factor came with the food. There were some days I wasn’t totally sure what I ate/it would have not been my first choice (holy carbs alive!) and I felt really unhealthy (they eat so much bread and potatoes!) Literally one of our meals was a pasta-like dish, but the noodles were French fries… it was weird. But that was what was served that day so I ate it! I will be very glad to have more of a say in what I am eating/get some vegetation in my body. If anyone is on a low-carb diet, I will be joining you ASAP. 😉
This trip and experience was the best way to cap off my three semesters of Spanish! I put a lot of work into the language over the last two semesters on campus. Spanish 1 and 2 are five day a week classes (I know it’s so silly that that is a big deal because I did it for 12 years in elementary/middle/high school but in college, a class every day is a commitment haha!) and I spent a lot of time studying and practicing so it was very rewarding to be able to complete the third class in Spain itself and having the opportunity to see the world while doing so. We definitely had class and work but also got to have a lot of fun and travel around so it was a nice break from the Physical Sciences building and Adams Hall. 🙂
Haha for Spanish 2, we were in the world’s oldest and dingiest classroom on the third floor of Adams. It was comical. Anyways, there were six people from my class that all came on this trip to and it was fun to go from classmates to good friends on this trip. But we were talking about how much of a better classroom Spain was than what we had all semester– just look at the difference! 😂
This has been a whirlwind of a summer- so much fun but also slightly tiring. Especially considering I came straight off a busy semester and two days later hopped on a plane to Italy. I am glad to be back home to have some rest and relaxation before the school year.
Speaking of home, two more things:
I was cracking up at myself because I’m not normally a crier in movies but I watched Hidden Figures on the plane on the way home (which is fabulous by the way) and it got me. It is about three ladies who work for NASA in the 1960’s and calculate all of the math used in the launching and landing processes of the spacecraft. Long story short, after a successful launch, there is a parade scene filled with patriotic music and red and white and blue confetti and I lost it and started crying hahaa!!
The patriotism got to me as I was flying back into our country. I’m glad to be back in the land I love and with the people I love. 🙂
Second, I was making a little list of things I need to do this week and one of them is to take my camera to Best Buy to have them look at my lense. Anyways, my first thought after I wrote that down was “Oh no… I don’t know how to say all that I need to explain in Spanish so I’m going to have to look it up before I go.” Haha- joke is on me!! Luckily, the Best Buy people speak fabulous English and so do I, so there won’t be a communication problem. A few little things like that are going to take some re-adjusting.
Well I am home now and fighting jet lag and drowning in a pile of laundry, and while I know you would all LOVE to read a good post on how much laundry detergent I use and my method for sorting my socks, I think this signals it is time to sign off on the travel blogs. 😉
So this concludes Meredith’s Grand European Adventure of 2017- thanks for sticking with me everyone!