Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mary Z. - Madrid, Spain - Spring 2013

EC students Rachel and Mary in Madrid

Well happy one month of being away to me! I can't believe it's already been a month and I can't believe it's only been a month. I can't say it's my greatest experience but I can say I’m making memories and working on me and all the possibilities I can have here. My main goal is independence and that's been easy to work on that's for sure. My first moment was when I got to the airport to fly to Madrid. My first flight was delayed, they pushed us up a flight and my carry on couldn't fit above so I had luggage on two different flights and was afraid I wasn't going to make the connecting flight to Madrid. But I made it and so did my luggage thankfully! My first time on an overseas flight was a new experience and a bumpy one but I met people from my program on the plane and all the stress of getting to this point put me right to sleep. 
Arriving was difficult as we were all jet lagged but they have a two week long jam packed orientation schedule that is supposed to make you adjust to the time change and make friends that will be your “go to people” for 4 months. That it did. They know what they're doing, just trust that. My housing assignment is a homestay with a family and their 30 year old son, which is normal in Spain because of the “crisis”. The family works a lot so I am often home alone but I am getting past the point of feeling like I am in somebody else’s home and am comfortable watching TV in the family room or snacking in the kitchen (this took a while). The food is very interesting, not what I was expecting. Ham is very popular, and there are a million different types. Croquetas are fried balls of cheese, ham, and just so good!! Great drunk food! Speaking of which, they don’t really have that here. Every time we go out late, the typical time to come home is around 4AM, but you have to be sure to stay on top of school work, as many people don’t have to worry about their grades here, just have to pass the classes for them to transfer. When we are done with our school day at 3, all I have is free time, as we don’t get too much homework. This was a challenge and I have to say I turned to Facebook too much for a distraction but all it brought me was homesickness. People are at home having fun but that should be a motivator to do the same. Still working on that one! Because of the crisis, Madrid is very common for pick pocketing, I luckily haven't had that experience thus far but a friend has in a club and another friend got drugged when a guy gave her a drink. It happens but if you pay attention like Alice taught us, I'm hoping I'll be just fine!
At the beach in Valencia
So my time has been a hard adjustment and too often I think about the coming home aspect but I'm working hard on remembering this is an opportunity of a lifetime. So I book a lot of trips, yes pricey, but worth it. They're great distractions for me and really encourage me to appreciate the opportunity to be places my family would never think to go to- Morocco, Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Paris anyone? The possibilities are as endless as your bank account, which wasn't that immense, but that's why I'm only able to mention a few countries. Travel is cheaper if you do it right, however exploring Madrid can be much cheaper and just as entertaining once I get a free weekend to do it. The nightlife is crazy, not going somewhere until 1 am is so not Elmhurst College, not coming home till 7 am is normal, and I get embarrassed if I get home before the 30 year old son living in my homestay. My classes aren't bad- they are all in Spanish but for the most part interesting aside from the lecture style of classes typical to the program. Spanish history, Spanish women writers, Spanish theater, things I'm able to appreciate around Spain are all connected to things I learn in class! That is something I love and know I wouldn't be able to do with many classes back home. Back to the Spanish, my homestay family only knows it so that's great practice when I do talk to them, and classes are all in Spanish, but you have to put the time in when traveling or with friends because English is very common in touristy cities and it is easier to use English when trying to communicate with friends around town. But Madrid is great because I am able to learn real traditional Spanish- different from the Latin American Spanish I learned at home, and not different dialects like the ones I've noticed in Barcelona, Valencia, or Andalusia. I can rely on other Elmhurst people in my program to talk about troubles away from home, or friends I've made here. They understand, and I know if I tell my parents, they'll tell me to come home. Friends back home don't understand it's hard to be away and they're often busy starting their day when my school day has ended. But I'm determined not to count on them as I can be independent!!! People go out every night of the week. You need to limit yourself so that school is not nap time and that homework is not neglected. But I do allow myself to have a good amount of fun, especially on the weekends because after all, it is legal here! But I am always sure to be careful and watch over the other people because a lot of them don’t do that for themselves. 
As expected, I went through the steps of culture shock mentioned in the class, and this was not easy. The only reason I have time to write this right now is because I am bored and can’t go to class because I have the flu. This happened to be what the rest of my program got too but it is just an awful feeling knowing that your Mom can’t help you or friends can’t bring you stuff to make you feel better. It’s a very depressing time but I know it will get better. My program made my doctor’s appointment for me, the doctor spoke English!!!, and my Senora came with me and has tried to nurse me back to health as much as possible but I still can’t help facing culture shock, homesickness, and loneliness. Classes don’t look too bad right now. But the nice thing is that my teachers only worry about my health and I don’t have to worry about getting behind while I’m gone.
Well, I’m sure I could write on and on, because there is always so much to talk about or reflect about. I definitely use my journal for that because there is no way my family wants to hear every detail and we all know friends don’t have time to listen with their classes back home. But I have an optimistic future, and I hope I learn to love it here like everybody else does!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mary,
It sounds like a lot of fun in Spain! I'm glad you brought up missing people from home because that's something I'm nervous about. The thing about my trip is that it is Semester at Sea so I'm hoping being on the ship with all the different people from all the different places will make me feel less alone. Thanks for sharing!
Emily CPP250

12:29 AM  
Blogger Mary Zizzo said...

Hi Emily,
Semester at Sea sounds awesome! You make with it what you want, I miss my friends a ton but I find things to distract myself. Also, I hear you are off of the boat a lot which is a great distraction and an awesome time so I don't think you will have a problem! Hope you have a great time!

5:14 PM  
Blogger Alicia W. said...

Hey Mary!
I'm sorry your experience hasn't been everything it was cracked up to be!! It does make me a little nervous for my trip but I also think it is good for me to be prepared so I am happy I read your post. I hope things get better for you! I am sure before you know it you will be in love with Spain :)

Alicia CPP250

4:03 PM  
Blogger Mary Zizzo said...

Alicia!! I'm so excited you're going abroad! I definitely took longer to adjust then others, but I am enjoying my time here and all the traveling I am able to do. I experience little bits of culture shock still, especially when travelling to other countries, but I am feeling better about being here! It just takes me a while to adjust to things, as it did at Elmhurst! I think you will have an excellent time abroad! I think it is important to know that there are lonely times or that there are times on the weekends when a lot of places are shut down and you just have to find stuff to do, but those are the times it is fun to be a tourist and explore your own city! Crazy to think I have less than 2 months ahead of me!Let me know if you have any questions or concerns!

3:16 PM  
Blogger Alicia W. said...

Doing all this research and reading all the blogs is making me so excited! Do you have some specific examples of culture shock you can share? Whether it was in Spain or another country?

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Mary,

I was wondering if you have a couple of tips for choosing classes while abroad? Thanks!

Jenna S, CPP250

12:01 AM  
Blogger Mary Zizzo said...

Well, getting to Spain and not having wifi in many areas was different as I was so used to being dependent on my phone. And they walk everywhere here, but I am glad to be able to do that, and I think I've lost weight :). I have to say I felt culture shock going to Morocco a few weeks ago. It was night and day compared to Spain. It is always culture shock knowing you are not the norm of people where you are at. I felt it again in Berlin over Semana Santa when we didn't get into a club because we were Americans. But I don't let stupid people like that bring me down! I also felt a little bit of shock with the food with my senora when I first got here or not being able to explain what I wanted to say because she knows no English whatsoever, but those are great learning experiences and help you adjust to life here.
Because I am a Spanish major and minor in secondary education, pretty much any classes I chose went towards my major. I tried to take as many gen eds or ECIC/AOK's as possible but I'm getting credit for every class no matter what. But, I also made sure to take classes that interested me that I know I wouldn't be able to take at Elmhurst. Spanish history is awesome as I can see the history around me, theater is so fun and probably easier than fine arts at Elmhurst, my internship class was great for getting hours towards participation for education, and my literature class was interesting to read women writers from Spain and how they suffered during their history. Take classes that interest you! I'm so glad I did. I ended up dropping a class when I got here but that was an extra one I didn't need and it seemed boring, and I wanted to make sure I did not stress over school too much as this is a once in a lifetime experience! So be adventurous with your classes, try to get them to cover as many things as possible, and Dr. Lagerwey is a huge help whenever I am unsure if a class covers what I need it to. You can always make changes once you get there which is nice!

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Vanessa said...

This is cool!

5:55 AM  

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