Although it was only for a month, I feel like my time spent in Spain was a dream…On my return home I kept thinking, Was I really in Spain?!?! I was experiencing overwhelming waves of appreciation because I had been to a place (lived there for a month) that most people only get to hear about in history lessons. To go beyond that, I lived 10 minutes away from the Cathedral, a HUGE landmark on the Pilgrimage of Santiago that people from all over the world come to see. Despite having a fantastic time, I was happy to come home because my younger brother would be heading off to spend his junior year of high school in Germany as a foreign exchange student a week after I got back and I wanted to spend as much time with him. Needless to say, like my arrival in Spain, my arrival in Portland was a welcomed one but I was also instantly busy both times (the similarity was that I had dinner at midnight in Portland too). Everything was a rushed experience but that made it all the more exciting. It did take me a while to adjust the everyday life here because my mind was still wandering the streets of Oviedo and it was strange to realize that I wouldn’t be enjoying the social event of drinking sidra in the evenings. However I got plenty of chances to relive my Spain experience through sharing the stories with my family because shortly after my brother left, I traveled to the midwest to spend the rest of my summer with my extended family over there. Also, telling the stories was a good process of reflection for me as I thought about things that happened from a different perspective or my family would ask questions that added to my view of everything that happened. The adventures never end and like I said before, I plan to visit my home in Oviedo again.
I had my reservations about traveling to Spain because of how I visualized the culture to be… that being said, I’m pretty sure that the culture of Oviedo was distinct and I can’t say that all of Spain has the same characteristics that Oviedo does. I noticed a lot of similarities in culture between Oviedo and when I live in the USA but there were definitely differences as well. Drinking the local fermented apple alcoholic drink (sidra) most nights as a social custom was of course an adaptation I had to learn to love. I was in awe at how they treat their children in Oviedo. I imagine that it’s not just in Oviedo, but they seemed to specialize in anything baby related so that those kids would want for nothing. The children themselves are beautiful cherubs and always had the nicest clothing….like the way we dress our kids for Easter…but this was an everyday thing for them. I could have spent hours people watching just because of this and looking at all of the cool gadgets they have. Beyond that, kudos to the mothers because they generally seemed flawless as well. Also, I appreciated the fathers’ unrestricted display of love towards their families that I unfortunately don’t see so obviously in the U.S.. These were some of my favorite differences of culture that I observed. There was also a little different twist on fashion in Spain but it obviously meant a lot to everyone….Especially the shoes. It’s very impressive that age doesn’t matter with regards to what highly fashionable shoe a woman (and sometimes man) chooses to wear. Fashion never retires in Spain. However, for me the most surprising cultural difference was perhaps the dogs. People usually didn’t have large dogs but the tiny dogs that they did have went everywhere with them. It surprises me that the dogs have a different personality in general because they were almost all extremely well behaved or trained and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with a stranger. American dogs will wander over to greet someone they don’t know, or at least bark at them…but the Spanish dogs could care less and will not acknowledge your existence unless they see that their human family accepts you into their family. Only then are they the sweet little companions that love unconditionally.
Overall, I believe that I did well in my host culture. It’s a little difficult for me to get a real taste of the culture in just a month and to fully adapt so that was the main challenge for me I think. I felt caught in between because just as I was starting to get the hang of Spanish living, it was time for me to return to the U.S.. I wish I could have stayed longer in Spain, especially to explore more parts of Spain and to experience the cultural differences just in Spain alone. I am really happy that I did get to stay in Oviedo though because from what I heard, Madrid is a very bustling city and I enjoyed the quaint everyday happenings in Oviedo. It was the perfect environment. I absolutely want to come back one day to my home in Spain and explore the rest of it.
I actually got to Germany a while ago, but I had forgotten about this assignment and I never received an e-mail inviting me to the blog so I guess I have some catching up to do…
The flight here wasn’t bad. I expected it to be way worse than it ended up being. Even though I didn’t hardly sleep at all on the flight, I didn’t have any jet lag whatsoever. It was weird, but it was really nice.
I moved into my dorm on the 27th of August. The view from my room is awesome! I can see the castle and, occasionally, I can see some people paragliding off of the hill across from my dorm.
So far, the weather has been pretty good. It’s been a little more rainy than I like, but on the days that it doesn’t rain, it’s beautiful and on the days that it does rain, there’s usually thunder and lightning too (which I like to watch from my dorm room).
I wish I were here on vacation so that I could travel the entire time and see all that Germany has to offer. However, I think it’s good that I’m here to study (not travel) because I wouldn’t have any money after about one week and one of my goals for while I’m here is to learn as much of the language as I can. That being said, I look forward to sightseeing when I can and I hope I don’t get completely overwhelmed by everything that is to come!
Last Thursday, September 11, was the National Day of Catalonia. The day long festival pays tribute to the defeat of Catalonia during the war of Spanish Succession. Three hundred years ago, Catalan lost its independence to king Philip V of Spain. This year they gathered in the shape of a V up two main intersecting streets, they want the right to vote in November for their separation from Spain. I had the pleasure of joining in the festivities, it was amazing to see so many people from all over Catalonia gather in Barcelona to show their support. It is inspiring to see so many people standing up for themselves and their freedom as a nation. Ara és l’Hora, Now is the Time!
If you want to read more about the day and their fight for freedom click here.
The view from where we ended the day, where the two roads met forming the bottom of the V.
I must say I did feel like an impostor most of the day, wearing my red and yellow flag cape along with the rest of the natives. I suppose as long as I kept my mouth shut nobody had to know I didn’t really belong.
Que vagi bé,
Never think that just because you are confident in your abilities as a walker and traveler that you can get around a new city without help, especially one as big as Edinburgh. I decided that I’d walk to campus from my dorm via the union canal path. Google maps informed me that it would be a 38 minute walk. I was confident but I was unprepared for what I found out. Google maps has no idea what they are talking about. I wandered in the canal for three hours into a seedy part of town and through several parks. I finally met a nice Bulgarian family who offered to take me a mile out of their way to the school. I am so grateful to them! The woman was very friendly. She explained that she too had once been foreign here and that she saw a bit of herself in me.
The day wasn’t all bad though. I got home and went over to the CIS-Abroad welcome dinner. I met a lot of people from the states and we instantly became friends. I even met one German fellow who seems nice. After the dinner a few of us stayed behind to chat and eventually made our way back over to the dorms to a school-run rock show. They were playing quite a few American songs. I had a pretty good time. I even danced (awkwardly). We’re all going on a walking tour today of the city with CIS-Abroad. So, I’ll make sure to post pictures of that as well.
School starts Monday! I feel like it’s the first day of college all over again. In a new home, in a new town with new roommates… starting at a new school with all new classmates. Which is crazy enough on its own, without the added bonus of being in a country where I don’t speak the language! (Please excuse the excessive use of exclamation marks… I can’t help how I feel :))
I arrived on Monday night with my friend from back home and stayed in a hostel. Tuesday I met my host mom and roommate, Katie from Ohio, at our new home in Barcelona! From the get go I realized I probably should have listed to a few more lessens of spanish before leaving home. Like, maybe all of them! Everyone is so friendly though and willing to communicate using mime and body language. It’s been a crazy week, but so far all is mostly as expected, surprisingly. I guess the one difference is that I wasn’t expecting to be able to understand or communicate so well. Don’t get me wrong, communication is tough; my host mom doesn’t speak english and my spanish dates back to two years in high school. Miming can only get you so far :). However, we get by just fine! She is so sweet and willing to slow down just a bit and chuckle at our poor attempts at conversation. Each day gets easier, and I grow more comfortable speaking the little spanish that I remember.
Today was our last day of orientation and we took a day trip to Tarragona (photos attached). Spain is so beautiful, I’m so glad that I didn’t let my fears (mostly of the language barrier) get in the way of coming here. There is so much history in all of these cities! I forget, when I’m in the US, that some places have such a long and diverse past. Tarragona is a city that was built on top of Roman ruins. New ruins are still being uncovered as the city buys old empty houses and takes them down to see what is underneath. Back when the houses were built they just reused what was already there, turning old roman walls and floors into part of the new construction.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of the sights in Barcelona and around Spain for the next three and a half months. I just hope that I don’t forget to do the touristic things while I’m here, as I already feel at home.
New friends and me at the beach in Tarragona. The sand is similar to our Oregonian sand but the water is much warmer
In Catalonia, the region where I am staying in Spain, they build human towers called Castells. This was a statue of a castell in Tarragona, the man in the foreground is playing music while those in the background form the base for a human tower, sometimes reaching nine bodies high. Children climb to the very top and wave to the crowd. I’m hoping I will see one at one of the several festivals that takes place in September here in Catalonia.
¡Hasta la próxima!
The view from outside my dorm window.
The plane rides over to Edinburgh from Portland, OR were horrible to say the least. I’ve got several bruises from my bags, bumping, and the airplane bathroom sink I clung to while sick with food poisoning. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how I did it. I’ve never rode an airplane by myself before let alone internationally. Yet- somehow I managed to figure it out and arrive here in one piece. I’m proud of that! I sucked it up and did something even though it terrified me.
I met some other girls from around the world on my way to the dorms. They are really nice and I hope we can hang out later. The dorm is not what I expected but I soon adapted with the help of some of the people that were already living here. I found out where the stores were located and walked the two miles to them- much to the surprise of one of the fellows that was trying to get a rise out of me. I feel quite accomplished about that as well.
I tried haggis and tatties. I do not like it. It tastes like bad sausage. I’m never eating that again. I also bought some steak and kidney pies, and some blood pudding. We’ll see how that goes over. Tomorrow I start the harder stuff – the socialization and integration into the University environment over here at Napier. I’m really fretting it. I barely have a handle on things at WOU, how am I supposed to manage here? I guess I’m feeling culture shock because all I keep thinking about is home. It’s lonely here.
Perhaps it will get better with time?
Well, it’s been almost a week since I got home and I have finally finished unpacking and caught up on my sleep. I’ve also had a lot of time to think over my recent adventures in Scotland and what I have learned from it.
After traveling about 18 hours, I was pretty exhausted but also exhilarated to see my family in person after two months of just skyping. As soon as I landed in Portland, I got huge butterflies in my stomach, because I was so excited to see my family. They had a sign and everything! As soon as my Mom saw me, she started crying, I swear, I have never been hugged so much in my life! My Mom, Dad, sister, and Aunt were all there to welcome me home.
I didn’t realize how much I missed Oregon until I came home again. While Scotland and Oregon have a lot in common, I missed the smaller things, like the trees everywhere, or the smell after it rains (it surprisingly smells different in Scotland). It was also nice to sleep in my own bed again after over two months.
Even with a common language, the US and Scotland are very different. One thing I loved about the UK was the public transportation over there, it was amazing! The people over there were all so nice and welcoming, I am going to miss talking with them.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to study abroad, and more specifically, choosing Scotland. I originally was looking at England, but I think that Scotland was the perfect place for me. It gave me the opportunity to learn about my ancestry and heritage in the most incredible way possible. I feel like I have grown so much about myself personally and what I want in the future. Even though I have traveled outside of the US before, I feel that this trip has shown me just how big the world is. No matter how much you think you know, just remember that there is so much more out there than any of us can imagine.
My arrival home was much warmer than that of my arrival in London. My parents greeted me with hugs, kisses, and a cup of Oregon ice water! Compared to London, my flight home was not late nor were we scrambling to get from the airport to point b. Sadly, I feel that I was more excited about my return home than arriving in London. Upon landing in London, I was full of uncertainty because we were late landing, there were problems at the boarder patrol, and it seemed like no one had planed on any of the groups arriving late whereas going home, I knew that no matter how late I got in, there would be someone waiting for me at the airport to take me home. Furthermore, the US boarder patrol was a walk in the park compared to London’s.
It’s good to be home!
This has been my last week abroad in Scotland. The time has just flown right by, I don’t know where it could have gone. This past week has been a bit stressful with things like packing, buying last minute gifts, and realizing that I will soon have to say goodbye to the people I have met and befriended while here.
This week my program, the International Summer Session, at the University of Stirling put on another farewell ceilidh (a fun get-together with a band and traditional Scottish dancing) to say goodbye to everyone and look back on all of the fun we have had. This time, the ceilidh was held at a local castle (how many times do you ever get to say that!), Broomhall Castle, which was a beautiful castle on the top of a hill where we could see the entire town of Stirling. It was a pretty amazing sight, and a little sad when I realized I wouldn’t be seeing this again any time soon. The ceilidh itself was a lot of fun, I danced so much, I was a bit sore the next day. When it was over, it finally hit me that I would never see some of these people ever again, which was a bittersweet thought.
Then, on Friday, which was the day before I left for home, me and two of my roommates went into Stirling to do some last minute souvenir shopping and to go to Stirling Castle (since one of my roommates STILL hadn’t been to see it). It was nice to spend some time with them because I had gotten really close to them and we were all n our separate ways the very next day.
Overall, this week has been a pretty calm and laid back one. It has been filled with tons of packing and hoping that everything will fit back into my suitcase!