As I am progressing through the last quarter of my semester in Madrid, I have started reflecting on the past three months and it’s just an amazing feeling. After officially knowing the city well enough to navigate it myself without a map and getting over the constant fear of breaking a social norm, I have let loose and started living like a Spaniard rather than a tourist. I’m going to share some of the biggest differences in my environment including people, food, norms, college life, etc.
1. Hospitality. I’ll just start by saying I feel completely blessed to have met some of the people I’ve met here. Although a lot of my friends are study abroad students like myself, I have had multiple encounters with local residents, especially in different departments at school, who are kind and want to help. Spaniards are very hospitable and are genuinely interested in getting to know you. My friend Sara’s host mom decided to make us dinner one night so we could practice our Spanish. She made us paella and we had a nice long night getting to know her and practicing our Spanish! Which bring me to my next point, eating habits!
2. Eating. Not only did I have to adjust to the time difference when I first got here, but also the “normal” hours of meals. Spaniards eat lunch and dinner an hour or two later than when we usually do (i.e. 9:30 pm is normal dinner time). Their portions are also a lot smaller than the mega-sized everything you would get in the US. However, I usually cook so the main thing I have noticed is, it is very easy to be healthy here. Around every corner, you’ll find a “frutas y verduras” (fruits and vegetables) store and they have a wide variety to choose from. I happen to LOVE fruits so I’ve been in a fruit coma for 3 months now!
3. College life. College life here has also been very different for me. It’s a combination of being in a completely different country plus going from a really huge school like Temple to a school with only about 1300 students. I have enjoyed both these changes a lot although I’ve had days when I didn’t want to run into literally everyone I know! Smaller school also means smaller classrooms, which is really nice. I am very close with most of my professors and classes are also a little less formal. Lectures are more like discussion, which is possible because of the class sizes. I can surely say school feels more like a family here, and it will be very difficult when I leave.
4. Language. The sentence structures in Spanish are a bit different than they are in English. For example, in English you would say “a big house” but in Spanish you would say “una casa grande” (a house big). This makes direct translation very difficult! All I do on the metro is listen to people’s conversations and pick up ways to structure my sentences without sounding like a foreigner!
5. Numbers. The first time I saw this in my textbook, I was genuinely confused. So yes, the commas and decimals are switched here! But apparently, the US and UK are the ones who use it the way we do and other countries just have different syntaxes. This one I have to admit I still have not gotten used to!
These are the little things that make up my environment and add a little fun to my days!