We eat dinner at 10?!
Post by Deena Mele, Class of 2015
Study abroad encompasses a variety of different experiences dependent on what country you decide to go to. While I could have studied abroad in a place where English was spoken (London, Australia, etc.), I chose to study abroad in Seville, Spain. Seville is located in Southern Spain, where tradition and culture are rich and present–even more so if you choose to live in a homestay- like I did.
When you enter a country not knowing the language or the customs, you have to expect a certain level of culture shock. So, let’s talk about culture shock. Firstly, Siesta: shops all around Seville close religiously from around 2pm – 5pm to observe this very sacred nap time. Another habit I had to grow accustomed to was eating times. I will say, without sarcasm, this is much harder to adjust to than a daunting nap time. It came as a surprise to me that breakfast was toast at nine in the morning, lunch at three in the afternoon, and then dinner at around ten at night. I found myself eating five meals a day to compensate for the in between times when I was starving.
All the small things aside, it was extremely hard at first for me to communicate- having no prior experience in Spanish. While I had so much to say, it was often frustrating not being able to communicate. I could not understand what was happening around me either. This lack of communication definitely stressed me out at the beginning, but as I started to learn the language that stress slowly faded away. In terms of a host family, the shock can be just as alarming as a language barrier. Not being able to go into the refrigerator, or cook in the kitchen, and having to eat with your family for all your meals, felt so different from the life I lead in the US. My host mom would always give me two kisses whenever saying hi, bye, or goodnight. She also cleaned my room, did my laundry, and took care of me when I was sick. Being an extremely independent person, it was difficult at first to relinquish some control, but at the end of the semester I could not have been more grateful to come home to clean clothes and a delicious home cooked meal.
Culture shock will be real, no matter where you go. It is all about immersion and embracing the culture. For five months, I did not feel like I was an American living in Spain, but I felt as though Spain was a part of who I was. I have come back with funny stories of not understanding things, or my host mom getting mad that I made my own breakfast, but I have also come back with such a respect for culture and tradition. There is nothing more rewarding then removing yourself from what you know and adapting to something entirely different. You were learn about yourself and others and when it is all finished, you will come back feeling different and ready to experience a different kind of shock right away.