Emily Nichols is a student at Arizona State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Emily is currently studying abroad with ISA in Salamanca, Spain.
During my first two months in Salamanca, I was particularly sensitive to the city’s noises, smells and sights. There is almost always something beeping, buzzing, stinking, sparkling or smoking (and not just the people). I felt (and still sometimes feel) constantly mesmerized by the stimuli around, and it was exhausting.
However, now that my complete and constant mesmerization of this city has faded, I can focus more as I wander the streets. When I was distracted, I missed some of the slightly hidden aspects of local life that I can see now. I’m thankful that I can see them now, because I have definitely adjusted my ways accordingly.
For example, Spanish people don’t put their phones in their back pockets like we do in the U.S. I’m not sure if this is just common sense, or a security measure, but I think it’s logical.
Another example of a small but important difference is leaving the house with wet hair. I have seen maybe three people in my nearly three months with wet hair on the streets. I definitely sacrificed that habit since I’ve been here. It’s probably best for my health, too.
The last example is, in my opinion, the least logical. The Spanish students in Salamanca seem to be practically anti-backpack. With the exception of a select few, they just carry expanding folders with all of their class materials. Even girls who have a bunch of things to carry still don’t use backpacks or even side bags that are big enough. It seems they’d rather just bring their tiny and stylish purses and deal with carrying the rest in their arms. Admittedly, I dumped my backpack to fit in too.
Along with my new ability to see these Spanish habits, I now have a keen eye for finding silly spelling errors in handwritten signs:
Lately, this has been one of my favorite ways to cope with the bit of awkwardness that I sometimes feel when I walk through town. Giggling at the silly mistakes of others is my attempt to feel better about my small “errors” as a non-local around here.