Hasta Luego Estados Unidos!

Katrina Killian is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katrina is currently studying abroad in Santander, Spain on the ISA Summer 2 program.

So far this has been quite a blast. Even though I´ve been here for almost two weeks, the thought that I´m actually in Spain in still creeping it´s way in. The idea of studying abroad, or, just simply being abroad, has always appealed to me– I love being in new places, seeing novel things, trying out what´s popular in other places. So the fact that I am here, without any family members, has put my brain on overdrive. So far I’ve already experienced things different and similar to what happens back in the United States. In fact, it´s happened every day… Let´s see if my memory can remember all of them!

First off, one major difference, besides the fact that they speak Spanish, is that the majority of people live in apartments. When you are in the center of a town, the streets are lined with apartments, and sometimes buildings that are like townhouses. It´s not until you are further away, where it gets more rural, that you find houses. Another difference would be their sense of time. This can be taken in two ways… they eat at later times than we do (which was hard at first, my stomach is used to having dinner at 5-6 pm… not 8-10 pm!); also, everything is at a slower pace. Yesterday I was at a restaurant and it took about 15 minutes for our appetizers to come, then another 25 for our burgers to arrive. They even drink their beverages with ease… I felt like I was scarfing my drinks down in .02 seconds compared to the company I was with!

Which reminds me, meat & potatoes = AIR to Spaniards, or so it seems. Every meal I´ve had includes some sort of meat and potatoes (always cooked in olive oil). I can feel the weight sinking in already! I even ordered a side of eggs with a meal, and that came with fries! Ayyy…

If you come to Spain, also be prepared for lots of talking… they like to talk a lot, and not only that, but they will have about 2-3 conversations at once within the same group at times. It gets crazy trying to figure out who is conversing with who sometimes! haha.

The last difference I can remember is relaxing around the house. If you enter a house in Spain, it is normal to trade in your shoes for slippers or flipflops. They don´t really wear shoes, socks or bare feet around the house.There is also the fact that almost all of the population here (or at least where I live) is brown hair and brown eyes! It´s interesting to see. Some kids are blonde when they are young, but once they reach puberty it seems that the majority of people here have brown hair. When someone doesn’t have that hair color, it’s normally due to dying it! I know someone from here that has blue eyes, and was blonde as a child and said that when he went somewhere he was chosen to go on stage to be asked questions (because they thought he was English). The person on stage talked to him in English and eventually asked him where he was from… they were surprised when he said a Spanish town!

As for similarities, well lots of towns in the summer have parties, close to how some towns in America have festivals-carnivals. Some rides are similar; there´s food stands, games, activities, competitions, fireworks… The whole kit and caboodle. They are entertaining to go to, and I had lots of fun going to the one in the town I´ve been living in. The group I was with even won the paella (national rice dish) competition! So that was exciting…except our plaque broke, haha.

The landscape resembles America´s too, but in a smaller area. The north, where I´ve been, is filled with green land that has many rolling mountains. It´s so beautiful. Then there´s the sea and beaches that line the coastal areas of Spain. Spain is also home to some plain, desert-y areas in the middle of the country. It goes on for hours and not many people live there. You only see scattered settlements and the random run down buildings that used to be for transporting sheep. Their TV shows are also similar to ours, or are American shows that are translated into Spanish. This can be nice for when you feel homesick… They have probably 90% of our shows– CSI, Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant, MTV, LOST, … it´s funny to hear the voice overs for some of the characters. :)

Well, I´ll leave it at that. I´m sure I´ll come across many other similarities and differences while I´m here. This is only the beginning after all! I just have to keep remembering that when something is 5 Euros it´s more like 6.25 USD! I keep thinking they are equivalent and that I´m getting a deal for what I buy!


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