Monday, February 25, 2013

Shannon P. - Barcelona, Spain - Spring 2013

Hey guys! My name is Shannon and I’m spending my semester in Barcelona, Spain. I had no idea what to expect when I landed in Barcelona, I didn’t know a single person, didn’t speak any Spanish, and had zero sense of direction when I walked into the giant terminal. What I learned quickly is that no matter how difficult the situation, if you have to do something, you find a way to do it. You may have to wander around for a while, act out a few questions, and take a break to collect yourself, but no matter what, everything works out. I have been here for a little over a month, and I have had to time of my life. I’m sure that comes as no shock because you’ve all heard that a hundred times: that study abroad will be the most amazing experience ever. So, here are the things I learned so far that I wasn’t expecting to. The first thing I learned was that as wonderful as the Spanish lifestyle sounds, it’s something you have to get used to. In between classes we would run to grab a coffee, or snack, and although the café was a minute walk from the school, it could take upwards of twenty minutes to go through the process of buying a coffee. The other thing I quickly learned was that the faster you embrace the culture, the happier you are. I love that I can go to lunch for hours and have no one bother me with the check. I love that I can walk around at a pace so slowly I would be barreled over on the streets of Chicago. The best way to describe all of it is the Spanish phrase “no pasa nada.” The expression of “no worries” encompasses each and every experience I’ve had here thus far. I am staying in a home stay with a wonderful woman, who speaks zero English. At first this was overwhelming, how will we communicate at all? But with the help of Google translate and some acting skills neither of us knew we possessed, we are able to get by just fine! Also, she is an amazing cook; the food here overall has been incredible. I am in love with Paella, their national dish. The only thing that they just cannot grasp is the Cheeseburger, don’t even try to find one, embrace the Spanish cuisine. The greatest part of the experience, by far, is the people. This includes the Americans I met in my program and the Europeans I’ve met on a daily basis, everyone is so friendly! Since I am studying through Arcadia, I have a much smaller program; I believe there are around 30 of us. This means that each of my classes has around 12 of the same group of people. If I were to go to school for four years like this, I’d probably go crazy, but as a study abroad experience, I couldn’t ask for a better situation. Everyone knows each other so well; we became instantly close because we were all thrust into the same situation. We all go out in groups of 15-20 people and it’s a blast! I joined a soccer league here for study abroad students and we had almost our whole program come out and support us at our game. The larger programs we play think we’re crazy, but they all said that it’s really cool that we have that kind of bond. The people you meet outside of the program really make the experience richer, I’ve met some incredible people who have really shown different parts of Spain that I never would have come across on my own. It’s really important to branch out as often as possible, I’ve been here only a month and I find it easy to get caught up in a routine of the familiar. As cool as it is to feel comfortable in a city like Barcelona, I found it equally as fulfilling to feel that uncertain, overwhelmed feeling I get each time I am thrown into a new and exciting experience. My advice to prospective study abroad students is to learn as much as you can about the country you’re going to, but really understand that it will be just as surprising and like nothing else you’ve ever experienced, so really just keep an open mind. I’ve realized that people here really do like Americans; we’re sort of like another species. The people I’ve talked to don’t hate us, they just want to know about us. It’s more the government they are confused by. They really want to travel to New York too, almost every Spaniard I’ve talked to is entranced by the idea of NYC. It’s quite funny, we all fantasize about the romance of Europe and it goes both ways. I’ve also learned that being here has allowed me to look back at the United States much clearer. I’ve developed a better sense of the states while being here than I ever had while living there. It’s, strangely enough, given me a more positive stance on the states because I think that everywhere around the world there’s more conflict than we see. The one thing I will say is that I find people to bit much more helpful to strangers here, I’ve had fantastic conversations with cab drivers, waiters, vendors, and bar tenders, they all enjoy helping me with my Spanish and working on their English. The weather is much more mild than home, but still chilly, so don’t think just because you’re on the beach that it will be beach weather, pack a coat! And finally, I write this to you from my bed, where I have been for a few days now because of a horrible ankle sprain. I’m in a soft cast and on crutches! It’s not exactly how I planned for this to work out. I’m telling you this because I feel the most important thing for anyone to know when studying abroad is that things almost never work out the way you plan them to, but that they always work out. I’ll be up and walking in no time, and hey it forced me to study for my midterms! 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shannon,

What are some incidences where you have experienced culture shock?

Ally Nee

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shannon,
Do you have any tips regarding class selection in another country?
Thanks, and I hope the rest of your semester goes great!
Margaret Larson, CPP250

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Shannon said...

*I have tried multiple times to respond to these comments, but i´m apparently not too tech saavy. So, if i´ve already posted, sorry for the repeat! If not, sorry for the delay!!

Hey Ally,

In regards to culture shock, I´ve found that it was majorly due to the language barrier. My homestay senora speaks zero english and I came to Spain knowing zero spanish. It made even the most basic of tasks very difficult. At first, I was overwhelmed by the barrier in all aspects- at home, at coffee shops, on the metro. However, I found that it has made me a better listener and a lot more easy going. My point is that culture shock will feel overwhelming at times, but that overall no matter what conflict you face, (it will be different for everyone) it will be something that makes the experience all the more richer. So embrace it!!

Hey Margaret!

In regards to class selection my best advice is to be flexible and understand that it´s not always easy to get every class to help you towards your major or gen eds. With that said, I found that all of the people I talked to at Elmhurst was very generous when it came to finding classes that gave me helpful credit. The other nice thing was that when I got here I was able to switch some things around if they weren´t what I wanted. So just make sure you have approval for ANY class you might want to take and then you will be stress free when you get abraod!

4:42 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home