By LAURA SANCHEZ, Staff Reporter
Editor’s note: Staff Reporter Laura Sanchez has been studying abroad in Spain this summer. The following is a log of her experiences.
Throughout my entire life, my dad would tease my mom about her penchant for travel by proclaiming that her life was a suitcase. Well dad, hate to say this, but as usual, it’s like mother, like daughter. I’ve most definitely acquired the sweet taste of traveling ever since I was four months old and took my first airplane trip to visit my extended family for Christmas. Ever since then, I’ve been lucky enough to explore so many different places, and sure enough, have learned how to pack a suitcase well enough to last me a while.
And now, I’m on one of the greatest adventures of my life so far. After a quick stint visiting my uncle and aunt in Malta, a teeny-tiny, majestic island near Italy, I’m jetting off to Valencia, Spain, where I’m to spend a month studying Spanish literature and history. It’s a bit hard to fathom – I’ll be living in such a different country for an entire month, absorbing as much culture, sun, and food as possible. Studying abroad has always been such a hazy concept, but now that it’s actually here, a living and breathing experience just waiting to happen, I can’t even imagine what it will be like.
I’ve learned several things throughout the eight days that I have been in Spain. First of all, the person that coined the phrase, “New York is the city that never sleeps” clearly forgot to mention that Spain is the country that never sleeps. All night, I can hear shouts, laughter, and noises of people commuting to and from restaurants, bars and clubs. It literally doesn’t end until about 4 a.m., and even then, I can still hear echoes of laughter in the distance.
Second of all, ice cream, or ‘helado’, as the locals call it, tastes so much better in a foreign country. I’m blaming my daily helado splurge on the incessant heat, because ice cream is surely the sweet component that prevents me from overheating and melting into a puddle on the hot concrete sidewalks.
And third (and most important of all), siesta hour is clearly the most important time of the day. My daily hour-long nap is crucial; I’ll most regrettably miss it upon my return across the pond.
Spain is so different from the U.S. It operates at a slower pace; people aren’t rushing from one place to the next. They take their time drinking café con leche on outside patios, chatting with their friends as the morning sun rises. They walk their dogs (oh, so many dogs!) at a leisurely pace, as if there were no worries in the world. They’re not running to catch their bus or metro. If they miss it, oh well. They’ll just catch the next one.
As for me, who constantly runs on a make-it-or-break-it pace back home, rushing from one place to the next place…well, I’m taking it pretty easy. I’ve learned how to slow my pace during my twenty-minute walk to morning classes. My friends and I take at least an hour-long coffee break in the morning at the café across the street from school. We walk aimlessly through the streets, peering into tiny shops, without a care in the world, stressing about nothing, except where we’re getting helado next and whether we’ll be home in time for dinner. Sure, when I get back home and start classes and work again, I’ll feel the grind. But as for now, it’s do as the Spaniards do.
Now is the time during this study abroad experience where I’m quite confident in terms of what I’m doing. I know my route to and from school perfectly; I know it’ll take me between eighteen and twenty-two minutes, depending on traffic, my pace, and how great the music I’m listening to in my ears is. I know which metros to take to get into the city center, that if it’s too dark and too late out to walk home, I should take a six euro taxi home, and that lemon granizados (slushies) are pretty close to the sweet taste of mythical ambrosia.
Sometimes when I’m walking through the streets, and navigate the pedestrians and traffic quite expertly (except for the time when I accidentally walked into the path of an incoming tram – quite literally, my worst nightmare), I cannot help but think of how surreal this entire experience is. I’m actually living in Spain. I’m eating Spanish food everyday. I can recite metro stops by heart. I’ve started to say unique Spanish expressions, like vale (okay!) in everyday conversations. I’ve developed a slight lisp when I’m saying gracias to people – grathias. I’ve even managed to acquire a hand fan and use it during the moments of intense heat, back-and-forth, back-and-forth. I feel like quite the classy Spanish woman.
Valencia has started to feel like a home in the short time that I’ve been here. It’s both scary and amazing to realize that. It’s scary because I know how much I’m going to miss this beautiful, elegant city, its people, and the bright, buzzing streets when I head back to Michigan. But it’s mostly amazing, because I realize how this adventure makes me feel so whole in a place that I’ve never been to before. Isn’t that what life is about?