Spain For The Uninitiated

Emily Kuhn is a student at University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an ISA featured blogger. Emily is currently studying abroad with ISA in Malaga, Spain.

By the time I made it to Madrid, I felt I had accomplished something. My connecting flight to Dallas had been cancelled, so I had to fly into Frankfurt instead. Hello, goodbye Germany! The best part of the first 48 hours was meeting new friends and exploring Madrid together. It feels like the first few weeks of college, where everyone wants to meet everyone, especially because we have become our own cultural bubble; musical taste and hobbies become bonding fodder. This is reassuring.

Spanish mandarines

A navigational tip – know the location of the major plazas, and you can find your way to and from anywhere in any Spanish city.

There were a few cultural shocks along the way; Spaniards kiss each other on both cheeks when they greet, are lax about personal space and speak louder than seems necessary. This all makes for an interesting encounter, because the stakes seem heightened. You are an American in Madrid, a foreigner in one of Spain‘s most eclectic cities. Every conversation is a step toward the edge of your comfort zone, so little by little the nerves are frayed until each experience becomes raw and awe-some. (Tyra Banks might say “rawsome”).

The siesta time that is a honored Spanish tradition becomes a relief. What surprised me the most about my first few days in Spain was how quickly I became accustomed to the idea that I would be spending a chunk of 2013 here. Vacations become memorable because of their brevity. Even the bad experiences are transformed into funny stories. Instead of a week of memories and a photo album, the time spent abroad will become engrained in our total life experience. The culture shock, language barrier and time difference will seem amusing obstacles that pale in comparison to the Very Adult Things most of us haven’t gone through yet – mortgages, marriage, parenthood. So this time spent living outside of the American norm….revel in it.

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