I just reached the one month milestone in my epic study abroad journey three days ago, and I feel the need to take the time to reflect a little on both the latest events in my life as well as my thoughts on my experience until this point.
There is currently a 30 degree difference in the temperature between Valencia and Bozeman (that’s 30 degrees in my favor, fyi). The nights are slightly less miserable and sticky and suffocating, which makes going to sleep so much easier. But its so nice to know that I’ll most likely be able to go to the beach well into October. I believe we had our first blizzard in Bozeman the first week of October last year. I’m doing my best to immerse myself in Spanish culture and am loving it! Last night I went to my second salsa dance lesson. Every Tuesday night at 11:00 a club downtown gives free salsa lessons and my friends and I have taken advantage of the opportunity to have a great time for free. I guess I failed to think of how hard it would be to learn a new dance being taught in a different language. Thankfully, I have my trusty American friend Libby to explain the new vocab to me (as well as the moves which my feet are stubbornly resisting right now). If I ever do get it down, I will look forward to passing it on to friends back in the States.
While I have been having so much fun experiencing all sorts of new and exciting things, I have certainly had a fair share of difficulties and struggles. While I love the Spanish language and am working hard to improve my skills in the language, I’ve found myself struggling at times with the level of difficulty involved. Despite my best efforts to listen and understand others while they speak, it has been and remains to be a great challenge to understand native speakers, particularly certain individuals. I now understand the frustration and embarrassment of other foreign exchange students in the United States. It can be quite an exhausting endeavor living in a society where one does not fully understand the local dialect, and when attempting to join in the circle of communication often draws blank stares or, even worse, laughs due to your humorous attempts to communicate with them. It felt the same way last night while I clumsily tried to follow along with the salsa instructor, trying to process the different dialect, understand the words, and then send that information to my hands, hips and feet (there might be a short circuit between the hips and the feet because the feet have not been responding correctly). Honestly it can become slightly overwhelming, and I can’t help but think how much I miss my home, my friends, my language, and my familiar things.
As these thoughts and emotions have been on my mind, I’ve had to decide how I will handle it all. And I’ve come to this conclusion: right now, I will enjoy the little things. That’s right, the little things. Instead of beating myself up for not better understanding Spanish, I will choose to smile with my friends as I clumsily try to speak their native tongue. I will laugh at the ridiculousness of having to ask how to say “butt” in Spanish, and I will enjoy the scenery while I wander through the city streets completely and utterly lost. I will work at creating new friendships with Spanish students instead of focusing on the complete and utter lack of organization and guidance involved in signing up for classes. And I will not cease in searching for funny-sounding Spanish words like “cacahuete” (Kaw-Kaw-Way-Tay), the word for peanut (I was appalled to find out that Spain has never discovered the joy and deliciousness of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Neither has Australia for that matter, but that’s beside the point). As I was riding my bike to campus this morning, I realized that I am officially 1/5 of the way through my adventure in Spain, and it made me realize how quickly my time will pass, and how I want to remember this period in my life. I decided that I would prefer to remember it as a kaleidascope of enjoyable and life-changing experiences. In a way it’s like a beautiful tile wall, where each tile is a memorable trip to Barcelona, salsa dance lesson, or first taste of horchata, while the mortar that connects each tile is the countless “little things” that occurred throughout the semester. I’ve realized that those moments will make up a huge part of my experience here in Spain; its up to me what I choose to do with them.
Hasta luego my friends…